Newbury is in the running for The Great British High Street, #GBHighSt, a competition that celebrates the innovative work going on to support those working to revive, adapt and diversify high streets across the country.
So why is the high street such a big deal?
According to research from the Economic & Social Research Council, derelict high streets are highly visible and provide graphic evidence of the severity of economic downturn. Its research shows that the number of empty property units more than doubled to 16.3% in late 2012 from 7% in 2008.
This downturn was triggered by three key factors:
1) The progressive rise of online shopping.
2) The impact of competition from out-of-town ‘one-stop’ retail developments.
3) The rise of convenience culture.
In order to survive and thrive, retailers need to change. According to the Digital High Street 2020 Report, a successful high street must be convenient, engaging, relevant, adaptive, diverse and experiential.
So how does Newbury fair?
There are many factors that make Newbury stand out, and why we feel it’s worthy of taking the top spot of Britain’s best high street:
We’re proud to be a market town
Besides being a high street full of shops, Newbury is first and foremost a market town. Encouraging local people to come together and share their crafts, Newbury high street is host to a variety of markets, including a twice weekly chartered market, a monthly farmer’s market on every third Sunday and an artisan market on the last Sunday of every month.
With an average of 6.6 million viewers tuning in to watch the final episode, it’s well-known that Downton Abbey is actually set in the beautiful grounds of Highclere Castle. But did you know that Greenham Common is more famous? Used by production studios on several occasions, filming has taken place for Top Gear, a Beyoncé music video, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We’re working towards securing a sustainable future for the area
Our ambition far exceeds being a bog-standard town. Under the Newbury Vision 2026, we want to enhance the area for the good of our residents. Already the town has seen great improvements, including the pedestrianisation of Northbrook Street, the opening of Vue cinema, and the development and opening of Parkway Shopping Centre, which has increased footfall by 750,000 people.
We celebrate our heritage
How many towns can say their history dates back 1,100 years? Look closely and you’ll see signs of Newbury’s history dotted around the town. From the Newbury Mosaic at the public library, to the overhanging gallery of The Granary, Corn Exchange, and Newbury Bridge. During specially organised Heritage Days, many businesses even open their doors so you can explore the town in greater detail.
We strive for excellence
Under Newbury BID, our businesses collectively invest in local improvements to enhance their trading environment. We host numerous events and competitions in the town centre throughout the year to attract more visitors and boost business. According to a report published in The Guardian, for every £1 spent with an SME, 63p stays in the local economy, which is why it’s such an important initiative.
We have purple flag status
The Association of Town Centre Management awarded Newbury a Purple Flag, meaning the town has been officially recognised as welcoming everyone, offering safe ways for visitors to travel home, providing a good mix of venues and is appealing after dark. As a result, our town benefits from more visitors, lower crime and anti-social behaviour and improved perceptions.
It’s generally a great place to be
There’s always something going on in Newbury. This year alone we’ve seen another great Crafty Craft, a tradition that involves the whole community getting creative, to NewburyFest, our month-long summer event which celebrates local groups, charities and diversity, and the hotly anticipated Christmas Festival.
So you see, there’s so much more to Newbury than first meets the eye. Last year, The Great British High Street saw 230 high streets enter the awards, with 200,000 votes cast; this year the event organiser thinks the competition is ‘bigger and better’, and we’re hoping you’ll join us in keeping everything crossed for Newbury taking the prized title.
…or Tweet us @VisitNewbury using the hashtag #GBHighSt to share your views on why Newbury deserves to win.