AT the renaissance public meeting held at the Shay, Jason Gregg, the Woolshops shopping manager said that Halifax needed to attract the big stores or it would die. I believe he was wrong.
As long as Halifax can maintain employment in the likes of Nestle and the Halifax Bank it will not die. The Local Development Framework is correct in recognising that Halifax already has quality shops and a flourishing nightlife and is again to have a cinema.
Flourishing arts centres like Dean Clough, Square Chapel and the Thespians are more socially important than any chain store.
Planners who believe that Halifax could attract more big stores apart from perhaps a Primark are being totally unrealistic. And if we do attract a Primark, then for how much longer would we have a Matalan which at least does sell some British-produced goods.
Our planners should take note of the views of bodies such as the British Retail Consortium, the Local Data Company and the CB Richard Ellis Retail Consultancy.
They say there will be no reversal of the trend towards regional shopping centres and fewer chain stores in town centres and that local authorities will have to find new roles for empty shops.
Regional stores can achieve the sales of almost twice as many local shops. According to these bodies a wave of retailers are planning to jettison stores: For example 95 of JJB Sports and 60 HMV and Waterstones.
Alongside this exodus from the high street, on-line sales are mushrooming. For example 70 per cent of Littlewoods sales are now on-line. The “local” slack is being filled nationally by expansion of non-food items in supermarkets.
For Calderdale to contemplate the demolition of any public buildings capable of updating, if necessary, over a period of years, in the hope of attracting major national stores is optimism not far short of madness.