No to Vinyl Blight

Our campaign against the blanking out of shop windows was launched in our February 2016 Newsletter. The launch article which explains the issues and offered solutions is reproduced below.

Shop window after shop window blanked-out. (They’re not empty.) It’s vinyl blight. Garish, down-at-heel, unfriendly. Footfall-killer and a real visitor turn-off.   With the Halifax, Boots, B&M and other nationals as much to blame as eastern European mini-markets. Despite the best efforts of Spalding in Bloom and the Parks Department, it’s an uphill struggle against the kind of tacky street scene shown in the photographs.

These are windows that say, “Keep out,” unlike attractively set-out windows that say, ”Come in and see more.” What a difference if all our shop windows had the vitality and actuality of the Tuesday and Saturday market stalls. The town centre is selling itself short at the moment. Need it be so? Might some of the following be worth a try?

  • Rigorous use of the Council’s existing powers to refuse hot-food takeaway applications if the cumulative effect is “likely to harm the character or shopping function of the area”.
  • Rapid adoption of the emerging Local Plan policy to extend these powers to prevent “dead frontages” – i.e. clusters of shops converted to non-retail uses. The Society is pressing for this to include retail shops with blanked-out windows, which produce equally dead frontages.
  • Setting up a shop-fronts awards scheme (most improved frontage? best Christmas window display? etc.).
  • Encouraging businesses with no goods to exhibit (such as betting shops, solicitors and building societies) to host regularly changing displays through establishing links with art studios or societies, photographic societies, schools, etc., (like the Unique Studios window in the Crescent).

Meanwhile, attractive shop fronts can be attractive in various ways. To pick a few at random:- the browsables (Stennet’s and Inkley’s in Francis Street), the stylish (Store Twenty One and M&C in Bridge Street), the superstore that surprises by actually dressing its windows (Wilko’s), the inventive (Molsom’s Optician’s and Hill’s Department Store), and setting a standard for charity shops (the two Sue Ryder shops). If only the pictured ones made the same effort!

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