East Cambs Green have launched Breathing new life into Ely High Street

22 October 2014

A new report, Breathing New Life into Ely's High Street, published today by East Cambridgeshire Green Party, compares the size, make-up and promotion of Ely high street with other similar historic towns. Key findings include:

Ely city centre has fewer independent shops and more chains than other places looked at in the study. It is also dominated by a narrow range of shops with homewares, health and beauty and clothes making up nearly 40 per cent of shops
East Cambridgeshire district council has cut the amount it spends on promoting Ely and invests less than similar towns in the study
Council plans to allow new out-of-town and edge-of-town development could undermine Ely high street, and risk leaving it hollowed out

Andrew Allen, Co-ordinator of East Cambridgeshire Green Party, said:

"Ely high street is at the heart of the community, but not enough is being done to support it. The council must stop undermining the city centre with out-of-town development and do more to make the high street an attractive and welcoming place with a diverse range of shops. Our research shows that doing this can bring huge benefits to both local people and the local economy."

Rupert Read, the Green Party's candidate for Cambridge at the General Election, said:

"Thriving High Streets make great places to live and work. The Green Party wants everyone to have the shops and services they need on their doorstep. With national and local elections just around the corner, we're fighting for local businesses and to stop chain stores taking over."

Recommendations from the report include:

Improve promotion

  • Reverse recent spending cuts and increase resources available to promote Ely city centre to local people and tourists
  • Relocate tourist information and main Post Office to a prominent shared city centre location, drawing visitors into the high street and making it easier to promote events and activities
  • Use Ely's established strengths to attract more visitors into the city. For example, the wide variety of cultural events could be used to promote Ely as a centre for art and crafts and the farmers market could be used to develop an Ely food festival
  • Ely's specialist and independent shops deserve better support, for example a shared online presence, allowing them to promote themselves and the city centre as a reason for visiting Ely

Improve physical environment

  • Ely has the potential to be a green city. Paradise Park, Cherry Hill Park and the riverside area could be enhanced to encourage their use as ways into the city centre from the train station and major housing areas
  • Physical links between the town centre and the train station are poor and there is a strong case for creating a safe and attractive cycling and walking route from the station to the high street and the cathedral

Make space for new shops and other facilities

  • Research shows that in comparison with other similar towns, Ely has a relatively small number of shop units. Rather than focusing on building space for big retailers on the edge of the city, Ely should be pursuing a more balanced strategy that increases space in the centre of town.

Publication of the research coincides with final report from the City Growth Commission. This is likely to propose significant devolution of power to city-regions. By considering Ely as part of a 'Cambridge city area' East Cambridgeshire could benefit from better and stronger local governance, able to support flourishing local economies, including of market towns, and preservation of the green belt.

The report Breathing New Life into Ely's High Street is available for download.

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