Across the Country Town Centres are struggling. We can see this happening now in the Royal Town. Rather than becoming despondent, we should see these current misfortunes as an opportunity to revive the Royal Town as a place that is distinctively green.
Sutton has many advantages that other Centres don’t have. A fantastic Park on its doorstep. Excellent and improving public transport. A high-speed rail network a few stops down the Cross Town Line (if all goes to plan). A compact Centre with housing close-by. Proximity to the second city as well as marvellous countryside. History and heritage.
A Town Centre has a place in the community’s heart. The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committees 2019 Report on the High Street and Town Centres of 2030 drew attention to the importance to the community of a vibrant Town Centre. Shopping is part but not all of this focus. We need to reshape our ideas for what makes a successful Town Centre.
People want to meet. To gossip. To have a cup of coffee. To exchange news. To make a contribution. Or simply to browse. It is people who make a Town not simply rows of shops.
And a green Centre for Sutton would be distinctive. It would be special. It would act as a green urban counterpart to the Park. With more cyclists and provision for bikes. Waste and recycling Exchange. U3A, clubs, religious association, pubs and hobbies. Pop-up shops, cinemas, self-help, keep fit. The sorts of uses that have migrated away from the Town can be engineered to come back. All that’s needed is vision and imagination.
And more new trees planted, green walls, sedum roofs (maybe with rooftop allotments?) to the large deep-plan shops. A gradual softening of the 60s retail led vision. And underpinning all of this, sustainable green transport and metro style living. New people living in the Centre bringing vitality, money, interests and vision.
And the new citizens of Sutton won’t need cars to clog up the streets. A bike, train, or bus will whisk them away to where they want to be. The future of mobility (the new buzzword for transport) is flexibility. Rather than large chunks of metal passively occupying valuable urban space for 95% of the time, innovative pooled Electric Vehicles (EVs) and lift-shares can be both more convenient and significantly less damaging to our health and wellbeing.
This is a future for Sutton that is distinctively green.