RiverTribe’s Town Centre Correspondent, local business woman and the owner of Bootcamp Pilates, Dom Day, takes a look at why we thrive on our stretch of the Thames.
If you’re reading this magazine, the chances are that you are one of life’s Postcode Winners – the lucky Londoners who will outlive their neighbours by two years – all thanks to the quality of the shops in our surrounding High Streets.
That’s because our high streets reflect who we, the local residents are. With Twickenham and Teddington both in the top 20 healthiest areas in London, we can raise a glass of green juice or two in celebration.
These facts are revealed in a recent survey by the Royal Society for Public Health. Its findings conclude that high street outlets bear a major impact on health with wellness promoting shops leading to the wellbeing and spirit of the population, influencing the way we eat, drink and exercise.
Leisure centres, health services like dentists and opticians get the biggest thumbs-up, followed by pharmacies, libraries and galleries. George Street in Richmond does well with branches of Wholefoods, Holland & Barrett, Leon and Bootcamp Pilates being highly praised while bookmakers, off-licences, payday loan sharks, convenient stores get ting a bad press.
Pubs – historically taking a bad rap for causing societal disorders are in fact a good thing! And losing 18 public houses a week is a problem and could increase isolation and loneliness. The survey argues that pubs offer a ‘third place’, after home and the workplace. They provide a neutral ground where no one is host or guest and brings people of all backgrounds together.
George Street has seen a startling rise in cafes in recent years which also act as ‘third places’ and can be credited with helping to revitalise town centres, boost economic performance and build community pride and social integration. In 1770 there were 550 coffee houses in London – one of the most notable occupying premises at 17, Richmond Green. But whilst the image of an artisan cafe fills us with the aroma of healthy and strong coffee beans, the rise of the ubiquitous chain coffee shops serving trendy frappuccinos which contain a thousand calories has had had a pejorative impact on the nation’s obesity levels.
The presence of vaping shops, invisible to non-smokers is a good thing – as it shows that locals are trying to give up.
A negative image of a high street is one with empty shops because in people perception this can attract vandalism, decrease a sense of security and increase fear. Broken windows and disused buildings produce a chain reaction of graffiti and greater crime. They can even have a negative impact on mental health.
“Seeing empty shops can be a bit disheartening. It feels like the heart and soul are leaving the area’ admitted a shopper in Hill Rise.
Shop keepers are of course fighting for survival while their online competitors are free to trade without the worry of business rates or the corporation tax but as as the RSPH report concludes
‘Buying online can’t create moods and memories but a city centre can’.