Improving Southend High Street is so important to our town

Southend high street has been the physical heart of the Southend community since 1885.  To residents, visitors and workers it is far more than just a high street; it is a crucial place of community, exchange and expression – and will always remain so.

High streets and town centres lie at the heart of our communities across the country, creating jobs, nurturing small businesses and injecting billions of pounds into our economy. But the way we shop and the way that communities use their high streets and town centres is changing: we are shopping more online, making fewer big shopping trips and shopping ‘little and more often’. This changes the nature of what makes a high street successful.

I have had numerous conversations with constituents regarding our high street, and like many of you, feel we ought to rethink how we use it and make it the centre of our town again. That being said, last week I can report that the All Party Parliamentary Group on District Councils was discussing high streets and local economic growth.

The meeting focused on how districts as the housing, planning and growth authorities, are best placed to lead on high street transformation and drive the local economy. This included a discussion on the findings of the Grimsey Review, and the recent Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on high streets.

What I took away from the meeting was that we need to ensure going forward that the high street is a community hub, incorporating health, housing, arts, education, entertainment, leisure, business/office space, as well as some shops, while developing a unique selling proposition.

As a town, we need to remember this and curate a place based on our distinct heritage. We need to celebrate the towns character, we are a seaside town after all with a lot to offer.  I do believe that by understanding our historical context and drivers we can and will have better use of our high street.

If you like to discuss any issues or topics raised in this article, please feel free to contact me on james@jamesduddridge.com or alternatively please call the office on 0702 616 135.