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Bishop’s Stortford can lead the way in building back better high streets

Cllr Graham McAndrew, a Conservative Bishop’s Stortford member of both Herts county and East Herts district councils, writes in response to news of the permanent closure of North Street store Fordes Home...

UK high streets have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years, with the closure of non-essential retailers due to Covid-19 exacerbating the shift towards online shopping.

However, amid these challenges lies an opportunity for bold, innovative action to revitalise and repurpose North and South Streets.

In the not-too-distant future, the District Local Plan for East Herts will be reviewed, providing a perfect opportunity to implement transformative changes.

In January, total UK footfall saw a promising year-on-year increase of 12.5%, indicating a potential resurgence of interest in physical shopping experiences.

The Government's commitment to supporting high streets through initiatives like the Welcome Back Fund and the Future High Streets Fund further underscores the importance of this moment.

It's time to come together and understand how these resources develop robust regeneration strategies that go beyond mere recovery to shape a future-proof high street.

The key lies in comprehensive regeneration strategies that adapt to changes in lifestyles, working patterns and the digitalisation of commerce.

Prioritising pedestrians, cyclists and public transport in planning processes can significantly increase footfall and create a safer, more accessible environment for all.

Embracing a data-driven approach ensures that investment plans align with the evolving needs of the community.

The upcoming District Local Plan review provides an ideal platform to implement phased pedestrian closures on South and North Street in Bishop's Stortford. By identifying and overcoming unique barriers to transformation, the town can set a precedent for effective regeneration. This includes establishing local partnerships with public and private sector stakeholders and co-ordinating resources for successful placemaking strategies.

Moreover, the plan should focus on green infrastructure to increase footfall while mitigating climate change effects. This could involve repurposing buildings into community hubs and engaging with commercial partners for underused sites. Through these initiatives, Bishop's Stortford can create compelling place narratives that attract residents, businesses and visitors alike.

The positive impact of empowering local businesses to upgrade their units, improving local perception and strengthening civic pride should be at the forefront. As the District Local Plan evolves, Bishop's Stortford can learn from such successful strategies to create an inclusive, accessible and safe high street for everyone.

By boldly embracing these transformative ideas, Bishop's Stortford has the potential to lead the way in building back better high streets – not just recovering, but creating a sustainable and thriving future.

The District Local Plan review serves as the catalyst for change, and by seizing this opportunity, the town can pave the way for cleaner, greener and more vibrant high streets that stand resilient in the face of future challenges.

The Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) is scheduled for public engagement in January and February, inviting contributions from the community. Following compilation of these contributions, the plan will undergo public consultation later in the year, after all engagement comments have been thoroughly processed

Cllr Graham McAndrew

(Con, Bishop’s Stortford Rural) Herts County Council and deputy executive member for environment

(Con, Bishop’s Stortford Thorley Manor Ward) East Herts Council

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