Posts Tagged 'Good People'


The way it was

WIF has just read a comment on the Journal website by Paul Crab (Hi Paul if you are reading this).

“Perhaps we need to look at our High Street, and accept that we don’t need anyone else to sell baked beans, but what can we ‘niche market’? Years ago, South Molton became a regional ‘centre of excellence’ for antiques. Land locked Braunton is the surfwear capital of North Devon. Any ideas?”

We totally agree.

Many high streets are similar to Ilfracombe. Essentially they have a lot of empty shops, they probably look a bit shabby and unloved, lots of charity and pound shops, a few convenience stores and a sprinkle of clothes shops and a heavy dose of chicken/fast food outlets and dotted all over town will be a baffling amount of hairdressers and barbers.

These high streets support locals who don’t go to the out of town Tesco/Sainsbury’s/Asda/Morrisons or local market town (in this case Barnstaple).

As Ilfracombe swells in size during the summer months due to tourists, it seems a little daft that the high street doesn’t capitalize on this fact.

Ilfracombe has, potentially, one of the prettiest high streets anywhere. A majority of the shops have original shop fronts (which thank goodness have a conservation order now). It has so much potential. As I wrote in an earlier post “Ilfracombe was beautiful”.

It just needs a focus. As Paul rightly said, different areas have a focus and become a mecca for certain types of shopper. London is a case in point. For books you go to Charring cross road, for electrical items yo go to Tottenham Court Road, for furniture you go near Googe Street, for clothes you go to Oxford street, for cutting edge fashion you go to Neals yard, for trendy bars you go to Shoreditch, for Curry you go to Brick Lane.

These places become destinations for these types of businesses and they sustain loads of them, all competing for the same customer. As there are so many of then next to one another the draw in the shoppers that want what they sell. The number of similar businesses gives the consumer choice and consumers LOVE choice.

Don’t believe me? Go into a supermarket. Any fair size one will do. How many different versions of similar items can you buy? How many different types of Houmous can you choose from? Pizza? How many different brands are there of the same type of bacon? Margarine?

It would be a good idea to have survey this summer in the high street, down the front and other areas around Ilfracombe. Get people out with clipboards, engage the shop owners to take part and ask tourists what shops they like to look at, what shops can they remember from their travels, what was the most extravagant thing they bought on holiday (anywhere not just in the UK), on holiday do they buy antiques, souveneers, gifts? Do they like crafts, art and if so what type? Did they buy anything today from Ilfracombe? Keep the questions focused, try to get answers rather than just opinions (asking someones opinion often means they have to think of a response even if they don’t have an opinion on it. This can be misleading. I see it happen a lot in market research).

This survey could help shape the future of the types of businesses Ilfracombe needs to attract. Of course this doesn’t mean the end of ‘normal shops’ for the locals. Turtons Butchers is a great local asset as are many other essential local businesses.

A great example of where I can see Ilfracombe in the future is in Whitstable in Kent. It’s a seaside town, it has an oyster festival on it’s harbour which brings lots of visitors to give it focus (this is something Ilfracombe desperately needs, along with a great market….why they don’t do this in the old bus garage is beyond me) and it’s high street is beautiful, full of interesting, exciting shops.

This is a link to some of the makeover visuals we did on the high street.

What do you think?

The Old Garden Shop

I remember when this stood next to Mr Benitos.

This is the current state of the building:

148 Empty

But what if it was turn into ‘The Green House’ to serve the community as it once did?

Original 'green wall' photo: Rory Hyde

Original 'green wall' photo: Rory Hyde

Green wall systems absorb noise, are self irrigating, stop graffiti, help insulate the building and enhance the environment. They vary in price but are around £350 per metre square.


How to make an empty shop appealing

This is such a beautiful shop.

It’s criminal that it has been allowed to be left in this state. No shop in ANY high street should be left like this.

This is NOT acceptable.


But what if empty shops were treated like this?

Empty Shop After

But what if estate agents used the building like a billboard:

“I could be an Old Fashioned Sweet Shop, or a Deli, or I could sell Eco Products, how about a Gift Shop?. Use your imagination. I’m next to a cinema, imagine what they might want to buy. Dvd’s?”

The door has two little holes from where you can get a sneaky preview of the shop before calling the estate agent.

This wouldn’t cost much to do either.

Have a look at our other blog:
or the people behind this project;

The Old Job Centre

This was the job centre. So it was a civil building. I can’t understand why the council would leave it in this state.

This is how it looks at the moment:

Furniture Store Before

But this is how it could look if it became a Furniture Store:

Furniture Store After

Ilfracombe should be proud of its history. Why not include a little text about the building next door? The hand points to the Old Candar Arcade and says:

“The Candar Hotel & Victorian Arcade stood next door until 1983 when they were destroyed by fire. The new buildings were opened by HRH Prince Charles & Lady Diana in their last official engagement as prince & princess of Wales in 1992.”

I actually approached the mayor of Ilfracombe with this idea in 1992 when I was a mere design graduate but he dismissed it coming up with every excuse under the sun from planning and red tape to health and safety (it may distract drivers and cause an accident!). Hopefully the local Council are more receptive to ideas these days.

A perfectly formed shop… but empty

This is yet another empty shop that is looking neglected. It’s a very elegant building and compared to many in the town isn’t too bad.

Jack & Jill Before

Bu t what if it came to life again as a kids fashion shop? We suggest calling it Jack & Jill:

Jack & Jill After

Why not use the space above the shop to advertise your store. They used to years ago and the signs are decorative and can help enhance the high street, especially if they are hand painted (as this is supposed to represent).

The Old Chocolate Box

This is where ‘The Chocolate Box’ used to be:

Deli Before

What if it became a Deli selling fresh, fairtrade, free range, organic and locally sourced goods?

148 Empty

Traditional materials and signage are not expensive. Original shop fronts can often look more contemporary than expensive ugly modern replacements.

The high street really should be listed by English Heritage or at the very least be a conservation area (if it isn’t already).