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Hope around the corner?

According to recent surveys, the number of high street stores closing is rising at an increasingly alarming rate.

‘Over the last twelve months an average of twelve shops closed every day,’ we are told by a company promoting alternative ways of shopping. Their tone is almost gloating, as they wait to pounce on a technology-fuelled public, eager to do just about every communication and transaction on their mobile phones and in the comfort of their homes.

Our high streets are in a state of crisis; that much is true. But the prospects of losing the traditional town centre and the timehonoured methods of shopping and interacting as a community are almost too gloomy to contemplate. A town centre is more than a collection of shop units; it’s a place for the community to come together; a sense of anticipation and arrival for the traveler coming in to the town and a place where we can not only buy goods, but also be entertained, fed and watered. A town with no centre is, indeed… a heartless town.

This month we have asked a number of traders in Leatherhead to give us their thoughts on the present health of the High Street and their hopes for the future. Their High Street is no different from any other, but I couldn’t help but admire their individual and collective optimism for the town’s future. As Jackie Quinn, the President of the local chamber, pointed out: ‘If we do not use the local facilities or use the local businesses, we will lose them forever. We CAN make Leatherhead exceptional but we need everyone to support their town and all it has to offer. It’s not difficult...’

Indeed, it’s not difficult to call into your shop to buy your shirts and trousers, rather than ordering something online or through your phone. The former keeps a trader in business; the latter knocks another nail into the high street’s coffin. So, which will it be?

Chris Wood is resident composer with Guest House Opera and editor of Epsom, Sutton and Cheam Time & Leisure.