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Our High Street on Death Row as County Hall opts to finish them off

(February 13, 2011)
SPECIALISTS in measuring the 'footfall' across 600 town centres in the UK paint a bleak picture as it seems that people are deserting our high streets in droves.
The latest survey by the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM click HERE) shows that over the past five years footfall in Britain's town centre shopping streets fell by 20 per cent.
Of course in Warminster the lunatics in charge of the asylum (local councillors) backed plans for a
£1.7 million 'enhancement' of the town centre at a time when we headed into recession.
The dislocation and pain it inflicted is still causing problems because the regular snarl ups of traffic in the constricted highways simply puts people off coming to shop here. It means the widened pavements are largely empty of shoppers.
Now they plan to compound this injury by imposing parking charges that will surely kill off our town centre - already under such pressure from internet shopping, out-of town stores and large centres.
ATCM chairman Graham Chase explained how the situation was developing nationally. "Today’s UK footfall figures for 2010 mark a 5 year history of the ATCM collecting this data,'' he said.
 ''The cumulative impact is clear for all to see and is of significant concern with a decline on average across centres of over 20 per cent.  ''In simple terms that means for every 1,000 people in a town centre high street 5 years ago there are now fewer than 800. 
''The impact on the viability of businesses at a time when costs continue to rise coupled with the erosion of the fabric and vitality of our centres of community must be a prime target for regeneration in the new localism agenda now being rolled out by central government.
''There is no further time that can be lost if more serious and irreversible damage is to be avoided."
Alexander Nicoll, ATCM Board member said, "Politicians at both parliamentary and local government levels have a key role to play in safeguarding town centres and promoting them as of key importance on any ‘localism’ agenda. 
''The decline of high streets will reduce local choice and diversity that people want and will also threaten the sustainability of local residential communities."
Steve Dancey, who used to run shops in Melksham and Southmead Road in Bristol in the 1980s, said: ''I'd hate to depend on High Street sales for a living these days.
''Our local leaders should take heed of these worrying figures produced by ATCM and dump their proposed new car parking charges otherwise they'll be dumping the town centres of Wiltshire.
''I doubt they will understand - the calibre of councillor at County Hall is woeful in comparison to those who were there 20 years ago.
''It seems there is an inverse relationship between the sum you pay the councillor and his/her IQ!!''
The Localism Bill going through parliament hints that the new government in Westminster might understand the problem though its remedies will be too little too late.
The local council will still be facing a David and Goliath problem when dealing with huge supermarkets and be frightened of challenging them for fear of facing expensive legal challenges.
"If our MP Andrew Murrison believes that localism means anything then after the two years town centre 'improvements' disruption to trade that our town suffered then he must now intervene," says Paul Macdonald.
"We have suffered more than any other at the hands of his party local council rule so the universally supported call for free car parking must now be brought in for at least two years with a review afterwards." £

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