Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Question of Choice

I was in Herne Bay this afternoon and had a very pleasant lunch in the sunshine  in one of the cafes that you see along the High Street. What struck me was the variety of local shops and businesses and an almost cosmopolitan feel to the place, reminding me in a small way of the Wimbledon Village I left for Thanet three years ago.

What really struck me was the contrast between Herne Bay and the rest of Thanet. Herne Bay of course doesn’t have the benefits and disadvantages of Westwood Cross on its doorstep and as a result, the local shops have survived and appeared to be thriving on a sunny day; even a children’s toy shop, something one rarely sees anymore in a world dominated by Toys R Us.

Perhaps this is a lesson to us here in Thanet because without the kind of thriving High Streets I can remember as a boy, we’ll have plenty of superstores and very little local character to enjoy in the same way as the residents of Herne Bay.

I suspect that if you asked them if they wanted their own version of Westwood Cross on their doorstep with the inevitable consequences for the High Street, they’d probably say that they would prefer to make the trip to Canterbury instead but I could be wrong.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Herne Bay is run for Herne Bay people as opposed to being conned by sweet talking developers. Westwood Cross is a nasty small town windswept mall and the only reason people go there is because Margate has died as a shopping destination. This then hits all other service providers who in turn go out of business. TDC woz conned and no one but no one in TDC is prepared to say the whole idea was an unmitigated disaster.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately 10.55 there were good reasons for Westwood Cross. I accept the traffic situation has got to be resolved, but if massive road complexes had been installed and Westwood then didn't produce the goods, we would all have been screeming "public money". The massive number of customers shows that the public like it. Personally I think it is awfull. The result of Westwood is that retail space somewhere has got to go, and so-far it has unfortunately been Margate. Everyone knew what the effect would be, and my criticism is that not enough thought went into alternatives for the inevitable empty shops. Knee jerk reactions like buying the M&S building are not the answer if it is merely to provide even more retail space. A great deal more thought needs to go into the deserted High Street and sooner rather than later. I wish I knew what the answer was.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, there are 2 other main towns in Thanet, Broastairs and Ramsgate. Despite being slightly nearer their high streets haven't suffered nearly as much as Margate's. I think people have a blinkered view when talking about Margate as if it represents all of Thanet's towns and villages. The reason the high street is the way it is is because it's a dump and even when it had shops it still was. Northdown Road seems to be doing quite a lot better too with some interesting small shops.

Anonymous said...

I take your point about Herne Bay, I remember when it was also very run down and an eye sore (late 80's early 90's) they have invested in the seafront and most people i have spoke to think its a great improvement, a pleasant and tidy place to walk along or promenading as its historically known, get a bite to eat etc etc I know people who visit its shops, a traditional gentleman's outfitters to name but one and the excellent museum with its nationally touring exhibitions. Yes most sunny weekends it is noticeably more busy than Margate. I think they have benefited from the 'Whitstable effect' but doesn't Herne bay come under Canterbury city councils control? I think they have quite a lot more cash to work with than us... It also has two great bike shops ... but we all know we have the better beach.

Anonymous said...

Simon,
interesting what you say about Herne Bay, Deal is another busy High Street, sea front and needless to say they do not have a big retail park on their door step so the shops have kept going.
Those retail parks are awful, the traffic problems are well documented. The public pay their money and take their choice. It is often pure laziness that the public want to drive everywhere and not walk. However Westgate has kept its small shops and people do walk round the village long may it last.Are we healthier in Westgate?
Barrie.

Anonymous said...

Broadstairs has a special nature to it and a quaintness that is its particular pull; Ramsgate has improved and despite creaking Ferry services has a thriving marina. Margate with main name shops still had a pull but with deliberate decay of Dreamland site to kill it for more profitable development purposes and the moving to Westwood of main Margate High St shops, MARGATE was consigned to a fast decline and death exacerbated by TC fiasco. As for Northdown Rd another commentator counts 28 closed premises on its lenghth!

worm said...

It might have been worth it if WC had turned out to be something special but it's a half-arsed attempt at a shopping centre. One shop is already closing down. As has been said elswhere, it's worth going to Canterbury. The choice at Wastewood is pathetic.

Anonymous said...

You may remember a piece in the Gazette announcing that Argos were to open a new Extra store but that this would not mean the closure of their shops in Margate and Ramsgate. Wrong!!! Margate staff were today told that Margate store will close when the new super beast is open!! Just like M&S big stores tell the Council lies, and the stupid council believe them!! Is that a bell I hear chiming, no, just another death knell for Margate!
Chaz Jones

Anonymous said...

11:46, If Westwood Cross is a great success i should hate to see what you classify as a failure,
On the few occasions i have been there the place has been near deserted.How long before more shops close because lack of trade.