LETTER: Time to restore soul to the city

My guess is those of us seriously concerned about the increasingly depressing state of this city which we feel is rapidly becoming something of a ghost town are legion.

Laura Ashley has gone, Next is apparently next, House of Fraser is in trouble, and the special independent coffee shop – a meeting place for so many of us – closed a few days ago.

It seems a series of dire council decisions, greedy property owners and crippling rates are rapidly reducing the city to a haven for elderly retirees who don’t ‘do’ shopping or those who favour Poundland, Subway, Greggs, TK-Maxx and the ghastly Wednesday market selling tat, mobility scooters, funeral planning (seriously) and other product, available anyway in what’s left of shops already struggling without having their windows obscured by yards of flapping canvas.

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There is a view by reducing taxes, the overall tax take increases; there is a converse view with regard to the viability of the high street – bring it up rather than dumb it down and the spend will increase.

Chains and big brands can cope with online shopping/Amazon, not so easy for independents – they need a street presence to sell their very individual products, they are the shops which will increase the footfall in town. It follows they are the outlets which need supporting/encouraging for the benefit surely of everyone, including the city. Yet they are the small entrepreneurs with increasingly nowhere to go.

Surely it is time for major property owners, city/district councils and Government to collectively start thinking out of current boxes and apply sensible rents, rates and real imagination towards restoring some soul and identity to our cities, especially our own.

Sally Rieder, Cavendish Street Chichester