Cambridge the ‘worst clone town’ in Britain
Cambridge, the ancient university town, has been named the worst “clone town” in Britain by a think tank.
Despite its sumptuous colleges and impressive architecture, the town has the least diverse high street in the country, according to the New Economics Foundation.
The think tank examined 117 town centres across Britain, surveying the shops on their main high streets. The NEF then calculated the number of independent shops and the variety of shops into a simple formula.
On Petty Cury, one of Cambridge’s main shopping streets which runs from the medieval Market Square to Christ’s College, there are 57 shops. All but one, according to the report, are chain shops, with just a single independent. And there are just nine different types of shop, with half of all the shops selling clothes.
Paul Squires, the co-author of the report, said: “Cambridge’s distinctive character still remains, but its high street is now no different from that in Exeter, Reading or Oxford.
“Cambridge’s IT success has brought in money and people to to the area, and these are the two things that attract the chain coffee shops, who need high footfall.”
He added that the lack of choice for Cambridge shoppers was partly brought about by the recession. Most of the shops are owned by the colleges, who have either increased rents or sold off property, to raise money – pushing out, for instance, an independent tobbaconist that had been there for 30 years.
Whitstable, the fishing port on the Kentish coast, was named as the town with the most diverse high street.
The report said that local, independent shops were crucial for local economies. “Although apparently economically healthy, clone towns have very little local retail left. This means that less money is likely to be circulating in the local economy, the social glue that holds the economy together will be weak, and the town is likely to have little left of the enterprise and infrastructure that supports economic resilience,” it said.
NEF added that the diversity of Britain’s high streets had not materially deteriorated since 2005 when it last conducted its survey. However, that was partly because many of the big names, including Borders, Woolworths and Zavvi had collapsed into administration.