Heritage matters

Wandering around sunny Harrow on Sunday lunchtime I was struck by the way suburban high streets look much the same. Generations of planners have allowed the erection of carbon copy shopping centres and trashed the remains of local heritage. Small specialist shops and traditional pubs struggle to maintain a foothold. This is one phenomenon that can’t be blamed on Europe. It’s what short-sighted English councils have done. Market forces have played their part but lack of imagination has played a bigger part.
This week, two high street names are under threat, namely British Home Stores and Austin Reed. Except for concern for those employed and the poor behaviour of their owners I can’t say that I will miss either one. In my opinion, BHS is C&A with electric light fittings and Reed’s shirts are fine but too expensive.
If I am to bring Continental Europe into this article, then it’s on the basis that a modest attempt to protect a town’s heritage does make business sense. It’s not just for places where tourists go but more broadly to improve the everyday experiences of working towns. A cleaner, safer and less homogenised environment would be good for us all. On-line shopping will kill the British high street if it’s not an attractive place to be. It would do no harm to look at Continental Europe and copy good ways of keeping traditional retailers and eateries afloat. There’s positive case for specific tax breaks and protections to keep local heritage and prosperity alive.

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