Your thoughts on Lowestoft’s town centre: Where do we go from here?

London Road North, Lowestoft. Photo: James Carr.

London Road North, Lowestoft. Photo: James Carr. - Credit: Archant

From being an 'unpleasant experience' to an 'amazing place to live', opinions on Lowestoft cover all bases.

The town centre has been the topic of much debate in recent months with a steady stream of shop closures causing concerns for residents and business owners alike.

This newspaper asked for your views on the future of the town centre, and a number of common themes were frequently raised.

One of the most popular suggestions for improving Lowestoft's town centre was to introduce free, or cheaper, parking in the town, with 35pc of votes out of 1,079 people taking part, while others called for lower business rates to help support independent shops. Some suggested a scheme of having three free hours of parking after 10am.

One response said: "I would like to pop into the town centre for things, but because of the cost of parking I just order it online for free. I think the first hour of parking should be free like it is in places such as Beccles and Bungay.

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"This is also the reason why I go to retail parks. They're free and I can happily browse or pop down as many times as I like for free."

There were also calls for a regular market to return (27pc), with Lowestoft Town Council recently announcing plans to run a monthly market in the town from September 28.

Other suggestions included more street cleaning (4.5pc) and de-pedestrianising London Road North (3.5pc).

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A number of responses called for local, independent businesses to be offered opportunities to open in the town. One said: "Independent businesses should be being enabled through lower rates and rents, and rent-free periods, to create the atmosphere and community that should define the town centre. Most of the big names are easily accessible by public transport - we have both buses and trains from the town centre to Norwich on a very regular schedule."

Almost half (48pc) of responses said they could not see a future for Lowestoft's town centre in its current guise. Responses included:

- "Retail does not work in town centres anymore. It is all retail parks and internet shopping now. We need to look forward with bars and restaurants to extend the seafront into the town and make Lowestoft great again. We're a seaside town so look to places like Torquay and Salou for inspiration. It's not rocket science."

- "More entertainment and places aimed at younger people, such as laser tag, would be good. Lower the business rates to attract businesses and cheap parking would be nice to see. Markets at times like Christmas as well." - "The town has little to no future in the current economic climate. The high street sadly is becoming something of the past. On another note the seagull problem massively discourages me to shop in the town."

- "Lowestoft needs a miracle to make it somewhere anyone with any alternative wants to go. Too many sites are empty and run-down. It is so incredibly depressing and full of cheap brands. It needs to be somewhere where some of the better shops want to have branches, but that is not going to happen."

- "The town centre has become a no-go area."

- "Lowestoft needs to be a 'brand name' that is identified with tourist trade. It needs to be a tourist destination and its docks and beaches revamped and remarketed. Right now, it is pretty much a clean slate just waiting to be rebranded and renewed."

Others, however, praised the town centre and the beauty it holds, with responses including:

- "Lowestoft is an amazing place to live with a wonderful beach and walks. It has much to offer."

- "I love our town centre and visit regularly to support it. I really resent all this talk of it 'dying'. I don't think that needs to be true."

- "We should make more of our parks and beaches to encourage folk to wander into town and see independent specialist shops that are appealing to locals and visitors."

Which shops would you like to see open or return?

When asked which retailer the public would most like to see open, or return, to Lowestoft, 47pc called for Primark to come to the coast.

With Tesco Metro set to close the doors on their London Road North store in September, the second most popular call was for a Sainsbury's Local store.

Other choices include Debenhams (7.6pc), Hobbycraft and TK Maxx (4.7pc each), while one response called for a novelty or holiday shop, as well as an American-style ice cream parlour. Other responses highlighted a shortage of choices for men's clothing.

One response said: "I'd like any brand which will bring footfall. However, a bustling activity of independant shops will also create something unique, although these shops can only survive if the footfall is there in the first place.

"So high street brands like H&M, Primark and Next will be essential in making that happen because they appeal to a wide audience."

Town centre or out-of-town retail parks?

Only 13.9pc of the 1,079 people taking part said they visited Lowestoft's town centre each day, with 13.8pc saying they never visit. 41.3pc claimed they were only monthly visitors, while the remaining 31pc said they visited weekly.

For these visitors, more than half (58.6pc) usually drive into the town centre, with 11.1pc using buses or trains.

More than half said they visit out-of-town shopping centres on a weekly basis (52.9pc), with just 8pc saying they never visit them.

Yet 55.7pc said they would prefer to shop in the town centre, rather than at retail parks.

When asked whether out-of-town shopping centres were discouraging people from using the town centre, 63.5pc of people said yes, with just 14.5pc disagreeing and the remaining 22.1pc unsure.

One response said: "Do not expect people to shop for large items on the high street anymore. Online is not likely to fall in popularity and you cannot take a fridge home on the bus."

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