3. Shops and the Village Centre

3.1 Consultation Results

The shops, the doctors, the Gaskell Hall, and the clock are all well liked as features of the village centre (although several others disliked the clock). People in particular like the centre when it is busy and full of people – like on Saturday mornings and on Wednesdays when the fish van comes. At other times the centre can feel empty and some people would like this to change. Many people have expressed a desire for the centre to be spruced up and made more attractive. Trees, shrubs and hanging baskets are some of the main suggestions, as is creating a central meeting place or focal point that would draw the village together. Regular street cleaning, traffic control, good car parking, litter bins and toilet facilities were also asked for, to provide the necessary infrastructure to give Silverdale a beautiful village centre.

Residents really appreciate the local shops currently available to them and are passionate about ensuring these continue to operate within the village. The Post Office was particularly mentioned. People are aware of the complexities around shop provision in the village. Many people buy provisions further afield, whilst those without transport are left to try and fulfil all their needs in Silverdale. Meanwhile shops struggle with high rents and a small population. Many people would like to see a café in the village, with a bakery and gift shop and extension of pub services also mentioned. Some people would like to see the Village Store revamped and somewhere stocking videos and hardware. The Post Office is especially vital to the elderly who withdraw their pensions there and a cash point is also needed.

3.2 Action Group Report

The group considered all the representations that had been made and prioritised them in terms of practicality and timescale.

Following a survey of the village centre, they felt that many minor improvements could be made with the cooperation of property owners and the local authorities. These include property and street maintenance, and removal, replacement or relocation of unsightly items of street furniture, fencing etc.

The group felt that hanging baskets may be out of place in Silverdale, being more appropriate for locations such as seaside towns or more “twee” English villages; but the consultation exercise clearly favoured them, so in recognition of this a decision on whether or not hanging baskets, or other forms floral decoration, should be provided is left to the Parish Council. Important conditions would be that arrangements be put in place to maintain them, that they be well secured in safe locations and that there be full public liability insurance.

The group felt that the concerns about a “centre” for the village and the need to provide an attractive milieu for local shops and businesses (especially The Royal Hotel) could best be achieved by a comprehensive treatment and re-alignment of the streets, footways, parking and spaces between buildings. They set about drawing up a draft plan for the village centre, to include ideas for a village square/ green, car-parking, more trees etc., but soon recognised that there would be many different ideas about how this might be done and concluded, after consulting with the Lancaster City Planning Officer, that the best way to reach a consensus on a long term plan for the village centre would be to hold a “planning for real” exercise with local people, organisations and property owners.

The other major concern addressed by the group was the future viability of the village shops.  Improvements to the village centre would not be sufficient to ensure they are retained and there was a need to find out what could be done to persuade people to spend more money in them, and to encourage them to do so. Having surveyed this there would then be a need to campaign for people to “use them or lose them”.

Similar considerations apply to the public houses and restaurants, especially the Royal Hotel which performs a key role at the core of the village centre.  The continued maintenance and future enhancement of the Royal, as well as the other hotels and the Balti restaurant, is important for the vitality of the village.

The group recommended a series of actions to address these points, grouped into three sets – short, medium and long-term.

One of these actions, a survey of residents about shopping in the village has already been carried out.  The main purposes of the survey was to establish the current level of support for local shops, and to try to identify what could be done to encourage more people to shop in the village.

Analysis of the results suggests that, of the factors which would most encourage people to use the village shops more often, ‘more competitive pricing’ and ‘a wider range of goods’ were ticked by almost half. These are, of course, the most difficult for small local independent shops to achieve. Also, many of the additional services that significant numbers of people would like to see in the village, such as delicatessen and specialist bakery goods, hardware, and evening off-licence facilities, have all been tried in the past, and have failed due to lack of support.

3.3 Actions

3.3.1 Short -Term

  1. Carry out “quick” visual improvements, e.g. cleaning of walls, removal of unsightly objects, property maintenance; a suggested list of improvements was made following a survey.
  2. The Parish Council to develop a scheme for the provision of hanging baskets on buildings, to include adequate insurance and maintenance arrangements.
  3. Meet the Cleansing Department to discuss street sweeping, trade refuse bins, maintenance of toilets, gulley cleaning.
  4. Discuss policy on parking at the Gaskell Hall with the Trustees, with a view to making spaces available when not required for events.
  5. Hold a “planning for real” exercise to draw up a draft Village Centre Action Plan, to include ideas for a village square/ green, car-parking, and more trees, involving local residents, businesses and property owners as well as highways engineers and planners.
  6. Meet with key property owners to discuss their intentions and to raise ideas in the draft plan. This would be in addition to the property owners being involved in the Planning for Real exercise.
  7. Carry out a survey of residents about shopping in the village and make recommendations for improving shopping provision.

3.3.2 Medium Term

  1. Organise a “Shop Local: Use it or Lose it” campaign to encourage people to do more of their shopping in the village.
  2. In conjunction with Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and the Parish Council, consult on the to ensure local support before including it in the statutory Development Plan (to be called the  Local Development Framework) and/or issuing it as Supplementary Planning Guidance.
  3. Investigate sources of finance for implementing the Village Centre Action Plan.
  4. Implement phase 1 of the Village Centre Action Plan (items where owners’ consent and finance are available).

3.3.3 Long Term

  1. Implement visual improvements that require external resources, including:
    • More tree planting
    • Remove BT overhead lines
    • Improved landscaping to the Royal car park area
    • Shift lamp-post in front of Gaskell Hall to opposite side of road (and move the bus stop)
  2. Implement other phases of the Plan (e.g. where private land, property chane and significant funding is needed)