SHIRLEY town centre has been named as one of the UK’s ‘clone towns’ in a survey by leading think tank nef (new economics foundation).
Shops along the main Stratford Road were surveyed last year in the report, ‘Re-imagining the high street – escape from Clone Town Britain.’
Out of 60 stores, the report said 33 were chains, and 27 were independent, throwing weight behind many local residents’ concerns that Shirley town centre is losing its identity.
The report also claimed that 41 per cent of British towns are clone towns, and a further 23 per cent are bordering on clone town status.
Only 36 per cent of the high streets surveyed retained their distinctive character with more than two thirds of their shops being independents.
The survey comes as developers revised their plans for the controversial Parkgate scheme which would bring the cost of the £100 million scheme down to about £80 million, including scrapping the creation of a temporary car park in Shirley Park during construction.
The scaled-back plan has reduced the size of a proposed Asda by 10 per cent, while residential units will now be a mixture of townhouses and apartments.
However, Councillor Tim Hodgson (Lib Dem) Shirley South dismissed the report’s findings.
“It’s a description I don’t recognise. You only have to look at Shirley High street to see how busy it is. As a destination it has advantages including good connections on transport systems – it’s a thriving borough. And with regards to Parkgate we don’t want a massive superstore that will kill the vibrancy of our town centre.”
Paul Squires, the co-author of the report, said: “The towns most dependent on the big chains and out of town stores have proven to be most vulnerable to the economic crisis.”