There are literally dozens and dozens of ways to improve our High Streets and as you would expect some people have thought about this at greater length than me, so I am not going to give you an orthodox list. Some of the issues that are faced are structural and other problems deeply embedded (e.g. economic hardship), while some things still are likely to be cyclical, if you believe economic theory.
My list boils it down to a list of things that ‘we can do’. I believe we should be:
- building some form of partnership of local business and residents
(but this implies releasing residents from apathy/disengagement and business from small mindedness)
- exposing the idea of place and identity, and above all experience and then developing a town brand (why should people visit our High Street if it ain’t really that great – let’s not pretend we’re better if we’re not)
- improving the look and function of the streetscape and streetscene (people visit and return to lovely places, even if they can’t afford everything and must be able to move adequately but without making it too easy to get away)
- examining how new entrants are attracted into the marketplace while keeping the best of the old (nudging out the worst sounds harsh, but importantly is there something we can do to attract viable new or novel businesses and business models? Aren’t there enough Pound stores and Take Aways?)
- looking at how the street is made accessible to all (but without obsessing about the motor car – if you think parking is a problem here then you need to get out more!)
- improving the feeling of safety and security (by which I mean safe to cross the road or cycle in the road without worrying that a car won’t stop because it is their legal right to run you over)
extending trading into evenings and especially w/es, while ensuring the night-time economy isn’t detrimental to residents or other users the following day(pubs, convenience stores and take-aways please note that the excesses are sorted out by tax payers money, so I won’t be favouring anything that extends the convenience format)
Here’s my short menu of ideas to improve Dunbar High Street in no particular order nor importance – a starter for 10 if you like. Over the next 10 days, I plan to develop each of the ideas below and relate them to the themes above, so watch this space.
- Enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists
- Create a central town community garden
- Improve signposting of public parking and free up private car parking
- Establish specimen trees along the High Street
- Repair pavements and crossings
- Provide better litter facilities on street
- Form an association of residents and setup a Dunbar Heritage Society
- Take over vacant high street shops
- Funding High Street regeneration
- Enhance the overall Dunbar proposition and experience
I often hear, “what if we had some form of community based budgeting, we might be able to regain control and redirect what happens in the public realm?” A mayor and a local budget. Well maybe, but for now I would say it has never been clear to policy makers how the list of everyone’s wants adds up to more than the sum of the parts or even a hill of beans for that matter. There is also a plurality of views and it is vital that the views of certain sections – however powerful and vocal – do not come to dominate or dictate the direction of the debate. No small challenge then?