Why Town Centres are Dying

Vernon Coleman

National and local politicians all blame the internet for the decline of town centres.

Predictably, this is self-serving nonsense; reheated bollocks designed to cover up the fact that our town centres are dying because local politicians are killing them.

The internet is having a damaging effect, of course.

But there are many other factors. Here is my very personal short list of the main factors killing town centres:

1. Car park charges are rising much faster than inflation. In most small towns it can now cost £6 or £8 to park for half a day. That is crazy.
2. Councils have sold off car park areas and there arenít enough spaces left. The shortage is exacerbated by the fact that council employees receive free parking passes for town centre car parks Ė and take up many available spaces.
3. Driving into any town is a nightmare. Bus lane cameras, bicycle lane cameras, traffic light cameras, parking rules, etc., can catch the most careful of motorists. A quick trip to town can easily result in a £60 fine.
4. Councils have made car parking spaces so narrow that it is now difficult to park any decent sized vehicle. And if you can park then you canít get out of the car without dinging and being dinged by neighbouring cars.
5. Town centres are full of beggars. Every town is the same. Shop and office doorways are piled high with dirty blankets and sleeping bags. Many of the beggars are healthy looking immigrants in their 20s who have come into Britain because the British are the most generous people in Europe. I now only give money to beggars who look to be over 50 years and make an attempt at busking. I donít care if this is politically incorrect and against the rules. Big Issue sellers are a constant annoyance. Many of them are middle European. We are importing beggars and ostensibly homeless people. We have enough of the home grown variety, thank you.
6. Town centres are no longer safe. Even in daylight there is a real risk that you will be threatened or attacked. Knife and acid attacks are becoming commonplace. Our parks and pubs are no longer safe. This could be linked to the fact that I canít remember when I last saw a policeman on foot in any English town.
7. If you can avoid the beggars and the Big Issue sellers then you will have to sidestep the chuggers Ė smiling assassins who want your bank account details for their charity employer. Most chuggers know nothing whatsoever about the charity for which they are collecting. And in most cases between a half and three quarters of whatever you give will be spent on providing overpaid executives with big salaries and pensions.
8. Shop keepers are struggling to survive because the Government and local councils charge far too much in local taxes. Small shops can now only survive if the owner also owns the property so that there are no rent bills. That is a very short term way to survive.
9. Pavements are often filthy and uneven. Holes and uneven paving slabs are never repaired. Rubbish bins have either been taken away or are full and overflowing.
10. Public toilets are either shut or disgusting. Councils let toilets become dirty so that they have an excuse to close them.
11. Public transport is expensive, unreliable and, in many areas, non-existent.
12. Shops are frequently dark and dingy (think W.H.Smith) and staff are frequently rude, aggressive and unhelpful. Charity shops are no longer a place for bargains. Town centres no longer contain interesting old bookshops, record shops or junk shops. The fun shops have been forced out. Town centres are packed with ubiquitous phone shops and coffee shops such as Starbucks and Coffee1 which sell awful coffee and seem to me to provide an atmosphere reminiscent of a 1960s British Railways cafeteria.

Copyright Vernon Coleman March 2019