Last year Hereford Council decided to set up a temporary maze in one of the main shopping areas of the city. Of course it wasn’t advertised as a maze instead it was billed as the ‘Eign Gate redevelopment project’. A multimillion-pound fund to transform and spruce up one of Hereford’s oldest streets. It led to months of frustration as 6ft mesh fences ‘protected’ shoppers from the dangers of scruffy workmen digging holes in the floor. Of course this led to the usual walkway of about 30ft across being restricted to just 5ft. While the walkway narrowed the number of shoppers didn’t. It turned into a seven day a week rugby scrum and slowly but surely it effected the patience of shoppers who soon learned to avoid the crush. Now we have a posh new street but the number of shops have plummeted. The pound shop, a local computer firm, a health shop and a national shoe chain have all had to close up due to lack of people during the works. To add insult to injury the brand new pavement is now being dug up by an electricity company.
Do the council seem concerned by traders going out of business as a direct result of their actions? Nope. Rent rates have now increased causing a number of other shops to mumble about imminent closure and the council have reopened the ‘maze’ in a new section of town.
I’m one of the people that can’t be bothered with the city anymore. All my buying is now online. It’s quicker and a lot cheaper. I’m a fast walker and get irritated by the cramped conditions where work is being carried out. If that’s not enough once you get into High Town you’re met with the clutter of a coffee and potato stall blocking what was once a wide walkway. Travel further through and you have the Chuggers Chicane – the zig zag you have to walk to avoid the charity clipboard holders pestering you for your money. When you finally get to the shops the prices are stupidly high to try and cover increasing rent, electricity and staff costs.
Now a further £2million pound scheme has been announced to transform the city centre. Problem is, by the time its finished will there be a shop left to visit?