Usually when I am in Wycombe town centre I am on a mission of some kind with a schedule to follow.
I am not one for aimless wandering, so like to have my route planned so as to minimise wasting precious time. I believe that I am not unusual among men in that respect.
Visiting the shops, bank, barber etc. are not activities to dwell on, but to be transacted swiftly with the minimum of fuss. So this week I found myself in Wycombe with more time than usual to spare because I had to wait for the mobile phone repair man to put a new screen on my daughter’s dropped phone and I ran out of things that needed to be done in the hour I was told it would take.
This is how I came to be ambling around our town centre, getting more than a little depressed, as I realised just how much the town centre experience has changed over the four decades that I have lived in the area. The High Street is a forlorn de-populated wasteland compared to its former busy self.
So many shops closed, or (dare I say it?) replaced by decidedly downmarket variants of what was there before. There was a time when cheap and cheerful Woolies was as downmarket as it got. But now that chain store of my childhood seems like Selfridges by comparison.
Take away the fast food outlets, charity shops, hairdressers, opticians, banks and building societies and you are left with W H Smith and shops that sell stuff for a pound. Even good old reliable Greggs has closed.
The Chiltern Centre is similarly unexciting and has lost its Post Office. So the Eden Centre is the only ‘go to’ shopping area. All of which would be fine if the High Street didn’t seem so unloved and a natural habitat for those who choose to drink beer and cider in the street and camp out in the Little Market House, making the rest of us scurry past and avoid eye contact.
I only hope that the new town centre plan approved this week does more than take traffic away from the High Street and fly-over but serves to contribute to restoring the undoubted former architectural and cultural appeal of our town centre. Wycombe deserves it.