Work to be done for our shop­pers

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION - Alex Chalk MP for Chel­tenham

JOHN Lewis has opened. Ring out the bells! This is a re­ally pos­i­tive mo­ment for Chel­tenham. Vis­ually, the shop front is an im­prove­ment on the tired old Beech­wood Ar­cade.

Jobs-wise, the store is gen­er­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties with its en­light­ened ap­proach to treat­ing its em­ploy­ees prop­erly.

And after years of com­plaints about the ter­ri­ble tar­mac patches blight­ing High Street, it was John Lewis’ dis­may about its ap­pear­ance that fi­nally spurred the coun­cils into lay­ing new paving.

But this must not be the end to Chel­tenham’s re­gen­er­a­tion.

After an ini­tial surge in vis­i­tors due to the nov­elty, they could eas­ily drift back to to Cribbs Cause­way and else­where if the Chel­tenham shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t im­prove.

That means get­ting the ba­sics right. First, Chel­tenham needs to be an at­trac­tive en­vi­ron­ment once again.

Ef­forts to tackle ur­ban ‘grot spots’ need to be stepped up, mak­ing the streets cleaner and lit­ter-free.

Vis­i­tors fre­quently say to me that the Chel­tenham’s not as pleas­ant to visit as it used to be. That needs to change.

Sec­ond, it means en­sur­ing that the high­ways im­prove­ments don’t stop out­side John Lewis, but ex­tend up to the Bath Road. Shop­pers are put off by hav­ing to nav­i­gate loose cob­bles and un­even paving. It would be bizarre to spend £1.5 mil­lion-plus on the small patch of Boots Cor­ner whilst half the High Street re­mains a glar­ing eye­sore.

Third, Chel­tenham must be cheaper to park. The new co­hort of vis­i­tors won’t stray be­yond the John Lewis car park and into other parts of town if they are put off by the high­est park­ing charges in Glouces­ter­shire.

Shop­pers de­serve an im­me­di­ate cut, and an end to post-6pm charges to boost the evening trade. I

f they can have free evening park­ing in Lon­don, why not Chel­tenham? John Lewis can be the cat­a­lyst for wider re­gen­er­a­tion, but it’s es­sen­tial that the ba­sics are de­ci­sively tack­led.

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