Mr Lenthall on the Town Centre and shopping in Stevenage
“the level of accessibility to the shops is such that nobody needs to hurry, and indeed when you watch people moving around the town centre, they’re not dashing around, they are moving quite leisurely around”
If you’re going down by car, you can get into a car park which is within two minutes of the nearest shop, walking distance of the nearest shop. If you’re going down by public transport, you’re taken right into the centre of it. If you’re walking or cycling to the town centre, you can get into it on the segregated system. So I think access is at a very high level. Within the town centre I think it takes you about seven minutes to walk from the southern end to the northern end, and it’s not quite so long to walk from east to west. So that as a pedestrian your movements around from shop to shop involve quite short journey times. I think if you add all these things together from an accessibility point of view, the level of accessibility to the shops is such that nobody needs to hurry, and indeed when you watch people moving around the town centre, they’re not dashing around, they are moving quite leisurely around. They can do all their shopping quite quickly. We did timing exercises to see how long it took people to do their shopping, and we found on average people were spending an hour and a quarter in the town centre, which is quite a short shopping period. The type of shops in the centre, I think there’s a very good provision, but I think if you talk about the town centre you have inevitably to talk about the Old Town as well, because we’ve got in the Old Town an old-fashioned High Street, and when we were developing the town centre, we realised that the town, the Old Town was literally within five minutes’ walk of the New Town centre, and that we had two options facing us. Either we could be in competition with the Old Town and probably kill it, with our much wider range of New Town shops in the centre, or we could be complementary to each other, and that is in fact what we decided to do. And the Old Town has much more of the self-service individual type shops and the New Town has the sort of mass shopping, superstore approach. And between the two of them – if you’re talking about shopping, you have to take the two together – I think we’ve got quite a good range of shops. The town I think feels it would like to have a department store and it’s teetering on the edge of being attractive to department store providers, and I think inevitably this will come. So, from a shopping point of view, it’s a very convenient town centre. It’s great that it’s pedestrian, because you can let the children run wild in the town centre, and I think the level of shop provision, which, whilst it keeps turning over and changing, I think is steadily improving. So I think the town centre’s a very successful concept.