Our perfect shopping precinct would be very much based on the post war model, the centrepiece of a new community. A mix of the basics such as independent stores and markets next to residential and offices would help knit our community together. The line up of essentila services, including bakeries, grocery shops, banks and a post office, attracts an abundance of people from neighbourhoods nearby via bicycle lanes and roads. The complex would be constructed using authentic materials such as brick, stone and timber and oritentated so that the cafes get the morning rays while tall trees offer shade and bars enjoy the setting sun. Drivers would be welcome on the streets, although they'd be kept at slow speeds with the help of some clever urban planning.
We instinctively know that high streets serve a purpose beyond a place to buy bread or post a letter: they are also places where you go to look in windows, escape your four walls and feed off the buzz of humanity. High streets are civic spaces and done well they provide a physical and metaphorical backbone for a community. Shopping should be enjoyable, staff should be nice and product offers innovative and well-displayed, but too often it's a grim experience. It doesn't have to be – when a business does the basics well and keeps things fresh. Furthermore it's about the shopkeeper as a civic leader, rebel, pioneer, entrepreneur and seller of tasty loaves! (not sure we have many of the latter here in leafy Henley on Thames)
If anyone would like to read the whole issue which covers all the above in much more detail it is available from your local bricks and mortar newsagent.
Henley has a chance to succeed as a desirable feelgood town with loads of festivals, markets and appealing independent shops. We just need to keep believing.
From Monocle Magazine – an extract by Gillian Nahum firstname.lastname@example.org