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It’s good to talk …
Urban Designer Lydia Ogden is working with Create Streets on the shopfronts project for Ryde High Street. She has been involved in discussions with shopkeepers and locals about their vision for the High Street – and it is the public engagement she particularly enjoys.
“I’ve enjoyed speaking to people about the High Street. Everyone has been so welcoming and so interested in what we are doing. Ryde has a wealth of independent retail and people really like the quirkiness and different shops you can find here.
“The history of the High Street means there are very good bones to build upon. It has been interesting to hear from people what they like and don’t like about the High Street currently. We’ve discovered people like colour but not necessarily neons or bright colours. They want to see fun shops and creative ones. They want to see variation, but they also want some consistency. People remarked about the difference between Union Street and the High Street and said they wished the High Street was more like Union Street.
“All over the UK high streets are struggling and in Ryde and Newport people are very keen to protect what they have and improve on it. They want to see a variety of shops and an improvement to the existing shop fronts. There is such positivity on the ground with plenty of Facebook groups full of positivity. In both Ryde and Newport people really care about the heritage and they are looking to the future and how their high streets can be preserved.
“High streets have a huge role to play in communities. It’s not just about businesses – social contact as a result of using local shops is so important. Our country was traditionally known as a nation of shopkeepers and by supporting local high streets it means we can all contribute to cleaner and greener towns.
“In the past there has been a perception that people couldn’t do much about things like declining high streets. People felt they were the victims of top-down planning and didn’t really have much of a say in what happened. That’s why the Heritage Action Zones in Newport and Ryde are so important. People can see the high street is about more than just buying things and taking them home – it is about the experience of well-being in a community.
“It is about highlighting the value in businesses that serve local communities – it’s almost a revolutionary thing to be able to say ‘I love my high street and I use it.’ Having gathered great feedback, we are now at the stage where we are creating more detailed designs using 3d software. After this, Historic England will negotiate which businesses will receive grants to improve their shopfronts.”