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Bishop’s Stortford’s high street is unique – and we need to embrace that





I’ve come to a conclusion: Bishop’s Stortford’s high street is unique, writes Bishop’s Stortford BID chairman and interim manager Karen Burton.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve dedicated a little time each day to researching other town centres in England to benchmark against, particularly those with a Business Improvement District (BID).

Admittedly, my search criteria found other, comparable places described as “a place at crossroads”, “on a county border” or “a commuter town”, but these are phrases that describe our similar geographic DNA. I couldn’t find anywhere with quite the same qualities and characteristics as Stortford.

Our distinctiveness stems from how our town centre has remained the hub. It has been added to over the years, rather than boundaries pushed and expanded out.

There is no big industrial area with superstores on the periphery. As a result, we have a mix of old and historical, new and everything in between sat alongside each other.

Bishop’s Stortford isn’t perfect – show me a town that is – but its amenities are located in fairly close proximity, making the town easily walkable from one end to the other, meaning its ‘heart’ is still very much apparent.

Karen Burton says Stortford’s high street is unique
Karen Burton says Stortford’s high street is unique

Within the BID area alone, there are more than 300 businesses representing a diverse mix of sectors. Businesses split roughly into one-third retail, one-third professional services and one-third hospitality, which in turn breaks down into a healthy mix of high street brands and independents offering a variety of services and catering to different needs and pockets.

This blend helps create a steady footfall which flows from the daytime to the night-time economy. It is this consistency which has ultimately led to our eclectic, vibrant and unique town centre. Of course, there is room for improvement too.

The BID’s challenge – and the job of any Business Improvement District – is to promote, support and represent all those town centre businesses which are our levy payers. Naturally, different businesses of varying sizes and sectors in different parts of the town require different types of support to succeed and thrive.

The four key areas of the BID business plan are marketing and promotions; events; business support; and placemaking (improving the appearance of the town centre). Within these areas, we aim to offer something to all our businesses.

So, to conclude, while we’re busy evolving our high street to reflect the changing times we find ourselves in, let’s remember to embrace uniqueness – it’s what makes a town and, crucially, a community.

In the wise words of Mary Portas: “High streets will never die as long as creativity and people’s needs come first.”



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