Last month we reported that celebrities including Sadie Frost and Sam Taylor-Wood are backing a campaign against beauty chain Space NK opening a branch in Primrose Hill. The opposition stems from a desire to protect independent retailers by keeping the area free of chain stores. Now Queen of Shops Mary Portas has added her voice to the chorus of disapproval which is being led by local business owners and residents.
Last year Portas published her blueprint for the future of the high street which she undertook at the request of the prime minister. Subsequently the government accepted the majority of the recommendations contained in the report, leading to the establishment of a number of ‘Portas Pilots.’ These towns have been given cash and support to rejuvenate their high streets, and maintaining diversity is considered key to this.
Portas, who lives in Primrose Hill, is quoted in the Evening Standard saying that she believes Space NK should take local opinion into account.
She said; “When locals decide they don’t want a retail chain to come into their high street, that chain should listen.
“Today the British public are taking responsibility for their high street and want to be heard.”
Another celebrity supporter, Spandau Ballet star Gary Kemp, said that Primrose Hill has a unique character that is valued by Londoners. “No chains here,” he added.
The campaign against Space NK is being organised by local businessman Phil Cowan who runs an interiors store on Regents Park Road. Last week he told Movehut that an online and hard copy petition against the beauty chain’s plans had attracted 4,500 signatures to date. He says he is ‘astounded’ by the support for the campaign and hopes it will lead to the retailer reconsidering its plans.
He said; “I hope the strength and sheer numbers of people who object to this outlet opening in Primrose Hill will persuade Space NK to look to expand in an area that is more sympathetic to them.”
He has pledged to personally find another tenant for the property at the centre of the debate if the chain takes public opinion into account, but he hints at an attempt to suppress the level of opposition.
“I have asked Space NK to meet with me and am awaiting their response,” he says. “I am continuing to canvass opinion here despite attempts to make the right for people to have their say mysteriously disappear.”
Together with the recent successful campaign against the arrival of Costa Coffee in Totnes, there may be a lesson in this story for other towns struggling to breathe life into their high streets. What is apparent in both cases is that residents and shoppers appear to value diversity and are prepared to become actively involved to protect the unique character of their towns. This indicates that, far from being dead, high streets still have a vital role to play at the heart of our communities if they provide what people want. Planners may be wise to take note.
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