The majority of British citizens are no longer proud of their local town centre, a new survey published today has revealed.
Only 49 per cent said they were proud of their high street but almost all of those asked still care about this part of their town (97 per cent) and 61 per cent believe it is vital to their local community.
Residents in the south-west of England were the most proud of their local town centre, with 57 per cent of respondents in this area saying so, whilst Northern Irish and Scottish people were the least proud with only 36 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.
Services comparison site uSwitch.com conducted the survey, and the company’s Director of Consumer Policy Ann Robinson argues that a lack of a healthy retail mix in many places is leading customers to be disappointed in local traders.
“Britain’s high streets should be the lifeblood of the local community - instead they are dying on their feet,” Robinson said.
“High rents, rates and the recession have forced many retailers off the high street altogether, while preventing new independents or start-ups from taking their place.
“Consumers often blame the larger retailers for the lack of choice on our high streets, but the reality is that very often it is only the draw of a larger store that is keeping some town centres alive.”
A poor choice of shops was named as the biggest complaint about town centres, with 41 per cent saying it was a problem, whilst 22 per cent blame high parking costs for disappointing trading and only 12 per cent of respondents named their local high street’s shabby appearance as the largest problem.
Despite a lot of focus on independent traders in recent weeks, following the launch of a government review of high streets headed up by TV personality Mary Portas, around a quarter of people believe the introduction of a big department store such as John Lewis or House of Fraser would best improve their town centre.
Just under half think that town centres are responsible for creating a feeling of local pride, 61 per cent back the aims of the Portas review and 76 per cent hope it will lead to free car parking in and around regional high streets.
Robinson added: “The good thing is that 97 per cent of consumers care about their local town centre - they want to see it thrive and they would like to be able to spend their money there.
“We are living in financially difficult times so anything that can relieve this pressure, such as free car parking for shoppers, will go down well. Yes this would cost local councils money, but we would all see the reward in a boost to civic and community pride.”
The biggest decline in pride for town centres appears to be in Wales and the midlands area of England where 30 per cent and 32 per cent of people answering the survey said they were less proud than they used to be.