Huntingdon town centre is declining fast ... and no one cares

WELL said Celia Barden (Letters, August 22) regarding the declining shopping facilities in Huntingdon.

Back in October 2011 I sent a detailed e-mail to Katy Sismore, Huntingdon Town Partnership manager, on this very subject and although she did kindly take the trouble to reply, there was nothing in her response to convince me that anything much would be done to resolve the issues I raised.

Since Ms Sismore confirmed that the percentage of empty units in Huntingdon was apparently lower than the national average, that’s fine then, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, sit back and do nothing.

This is a summary of the points I made at the time:

– Apparently little or no discernment exercised as to the type of shop allowed to open in the town centre and whether the presence of a disproportionately high number of cheap clone shops/phone shops/charity shops actually benefits Huntingdon, or simply puts off quality retailers from coming here.

– The (increasing) number of empty units mainly in St Benedicts Court, which now looks scruffy, dated and semi-abandoned.

– Virtually all our independent shops have gone and where replaced, this has been mostly with service industries or charity shops. Could some of the empty historic buildings at each end of the High Street be brought back into use and offered to small businesses (arts and crafts, etc) at affordable rents?

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Our markets in Huntingdon are sad and half-hearted with a smattering of stalls selling mainly cheap tat, whilst the markets at St Ives are thriving and bustling. Why should this be when Huntingdon and St Ives markets are all run by Huntingdonshire District Council?

We have an attractive riverside cut off from the town by a noisy ring road with no safe crossing place except by the Old Bridge. Apart from the Bridge Hotel, there are no riverside facilities at all in Huntingdon, e.g. tearoom or pub. There are tourists in Huntingdon looking for places to go/things to buy – it could be vibrant and attractive but sadly no one with any power apparently cares enough to take more radical action than to rename a park that doesn’t need renaming.

And indeed what has happened to those ‘exciting’ town centre developments, none of which show any sign of work even starting?

The total extent of HDC’s interest seems to begin and end with their pet-project multi-storey car park (of little use with no decent shopping) signage and Huntingdon in Bloom – all very admirable but sidestepping the elephant in the room which is so glaringly obvious to everyone but them.

There are people in Huntingdon with money to spend but there is nothing to buy, and nothing they can obtain here that they cannot find in neighbouring towns with a good deal more to offer besides.

I like living in Huntingdon but it has become the ‘poor relation,’ as the town centre becomes increasingly less inspiring. For anything non-food, I either go to Cambridge, St Ives (which at least has some interesting independent retailers and a riverside which is properly integrated into the town) or Peterborough.


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