THE Great Age of Shopping is coming to a graceful close. Or grinding to a sudden halt, accompanied by the squealing of defective brakes and the inflation of air bags, if you prefer. Perhaps someone ought to tell the people who are planning the future of Halifax.
This was undoubtedly the Age of the Shop. Until the economy went pear shaped, retailing was at the root of everything in this country. Not only was shopping itself a blend of leisure activity and religious duty – a bit like Methodism used to be – but it seemed that no development was possible without retail involvement.
New road schemes, leisure facilities, industrial units… no matter what was proposed, it could not happen unless a supermarket chain or some other retail consortium came on board.
The concept of “planning gain” became familiar. Wondercash, Megamart or Hypersave would get the go ahead for a new superstore and in return the public would get a nice new road junction, swimming pool or drop-in centre.
Everyone was happy (except a few misfits and grouches). All we had to do was keep on shopping.
But we are not doing that anymore. Either we haven’t got the cash or confidence to shop with the old frenzy; or we are doing it in the internet. The result is that a succession of high street names are announcing their closure.
And surely the old model of retail-led redevelopment will also prove to be past its sell-by date. Which makes it inevitable that Halifax looks to be on the verge of demolishing its civic offices and central library… to make way for a shop.
Well, the town always was noted for being behind the times.