Bucks Herald Article

David thought you might be interested in seeing an article he recently wrote for the Bucks Herald.

"House of Fraser is to pull out of Friars Square. That unwelcome news highlights the fact that Aylesbury faces competition for shoppers from towns like Wycombe and Watford. I also think that there's a longer-term message here about the changing nature of our high streets and town centres.

A couple of weeks ago, at one of the regular meetings between Bucks MPs and the County Council cabinet, we talked as usual about current local issues, everything from social care to potholes, but also discussed what the County might look like in 2050.

None of us can predict with certainty how digital technology will change our way of life, but it's already clear that retailing is being shaken up in a big way. When I talk to supermarket bosses, they tell me that it's “click and collect” that's the growth area of business. I've seen too how big retailers, whether computer and electrical stores or clothes chains are integrating their online and in store operations. Royal Mail tell me that the number of Christmas cards sent is on a steady downward trend but the number of Christmas packages and parcels ordered and dispatched online is growing apace.

About a fifth of non-food retail sales in Britain are now online. That figure will continue to grow. So will our mid-century town centres need so many shops? I suspect not. But what does that mean for jobs and for the character of our high streets and market squares?

My hunch is that there will still be a demand for smaller, specialist shops offering exceptional customer service, provided of course that rents and rates are set at levels which they can afford. As shoppers go online, planning policy too will need to change.  I would expect to see town centres with fewer shops than now, more residential accommodation, and more small offices and workshops.

Towns and cities will also thrive as cultural and artistic centres, so the Waterside, Queen’s Park and the cinema should stand Aylesbury in good stead."