Letter: Sad decline of our traditional town centres

Unscrupulous developers have no concern about damage to traditional town centres.
Unscrupulous developers have no concern about damage to traditional town centres.

Having come from Dudley in the West Midlands I can write with bitter experience as to the causes in the decline of traditional town centres.

When I was young Dudley had a very thriving town centre but in 1974 Ted Heath put three totally disparate towns, Dudley, Stourbridge and Halesowen together to form a Metropolitan Borough Council.

Following which the political parties spent thirty years fighting each other and changing things for the worse.

Town centres were partly pedestrianised, other streets were festooned with yellow lines and motorists had to pay to use off road car parks.

Then during the time of Maggie Thatcher’s Enterprise Zone Scheme two unscrupulous developers ran rings around the very weak planning regulations concerning Enterprise Zones and built the Merryhill Centre on the site of a closed steel works in between the three towns.

The result was that all three town centres fell into rapid decline and now all that is left are a few charity shops and many empty premises.

Elsewhere in the country unscrupulous developers, whose sole concerns are profit, and have no concern about damage to traditional town centres have built many out of town shopping centres with free car parking.

The big supermarkets competition, with deliberate “loss leaders”, killed off many small businesses.

Add to that the rapid increase in online shopping so is it any wonder that old town centres are declining?

Perhaps a partial answer would be to convert empty shops into dwelling places which would at least put a few more feet onto pavements.

Sam Storey, all credit to her, has made several suggestions as to protecting Pocklington town centre such as a loyalty card and “Crazy Tuesday” special deals.

Had the Co-op not been sold off it would have been a good place for a market hall housing many small businesses. One must hope that other shop keepers follow Sam’s lead. I love Pocklington town centre and hope it survives.

Roger Bruton

Broadmanor, Pocklington