A major re-think is needed for Worcester to flourish and become an important centre for shopping, business and tourism in the 21st century. That is the picture that has emerged after the Evening News invited its readers to take part in a survey of what they think of the city.
Altogether 89 people took the trouble to fill in the 11 question City Centre Survey. Some readers also wrote letters to expand their points.
The most striking findings in the survey is that 46 per cent of those surveyed do not feel safe walking around the city at day or night. This compares to 23 per cent who said they felt safe the whole time. Many said their fear was greatest at night.
Gangs of youths, drunks and beggars and a lack of police presence are all highlighted by those worried about safety in the city centre. Also, half think the general shopping atmosphere in the city was deteriorated in the last few years. This is despite the opening of the Crown Gate Centre, which got a resounding thumbs up with 60 per cent saying would make them more likely to stay in Worcester to shop.
The large number of boarded up premises is blamed by some for the decline to atmosphere along with the spread of bargain and charity shops. Merry Hill, Droitwich, Pershore, Ledbury and Telford were all mentioned as alternatives and its free or cheaper car parking that seems to be the big attraction.
A massive 70 per cent of you wanted to see business rates cut to breathe new life into Worcester city centre and making it more attractive to tourists. Cutting or removing car parking charges to encourage trade and attract people from outlying areas was also advocated by 66 per cent of you. But more pedestrianisation is not the answer with 52 per cent saying it would not make them more likely to shop in Worcester.
Surprisingly, 60 per cent said out-of-town supermarkets would not keep them from the city centre but many admitted to doing their main grocery shop at one.
Whatever you think about the survey, one thing is clear. If the city does not grow and adapt with its people and address its problems and promote its strengths , the future will not be a bright one.
THE QUESTIONS WE ASKED AND THE ANSWERS YOU GAVE
In all, 89 people responded to the City Centre Survey. The following is breakdown of how each question was answered - per person , Not a percentage:
- Do you think enough is being done to promote Worcester as a centre of business? If not, why not? Yes 12; No 59; Don't Know 18.
- Has the building of edge-of-city supermarkets pulled you away? Yes 36; No 53
- Would more pedestrianised areas persuade you to come? Yes 31; No 56' Don't know 2
- Would cutting or removing car park charges encourage you to spend more time in the city? Yes 59; No 27; Don't Know 3
- Should the city centre have more traffic restrictions? Yes 42; No 46; Don't know 1
- Has the general atmosphere of Worcester changed over the past few years? if yes why? Generally better 39; Generally worse; 45. Generally the same.
- CrownGate - does it keep you in the city, or are you pulled away to shopping centres such as Merry Hill? Crown Gate keeps or helps keep me here; 53, CrownGate is not enough to keep me here; 29, Neither; 7
- Does the variety of shop satisfy your needs? if not why not ? Yes 43; No 45; Don't know 1
- What can the city or county council do about the number of shops closing down? See below
- Do you feel safe walking through Worcester during the day or night? Feel safe during day and night 23; Feel safe in day but not at night 25; Don't feel safe at any time 41;
- What can be done about the number of homeless people on the streets? See below
WHAT YOU HAD TO SAY ABOUT WORCESTER
- "CrownGate is better than Merry Hill. The very large malls are too impersonal and only have the large chains" - Anon
- "Not enough is being to promote small business, Look at St John's, Lowesmoor - these places are dying on their feet" -E.P, Worcester
- "Worcester is not the place to walk about during the night hours. The beggars in Worcester are more prevalent than anywhere else l've visited" F.P, Worcester
- "I believe this city has more to offer than Stratford-upon-Avon but unless some positive action is taken it will become a ghost town". - I. J. Worcester
- "Shopping in Merry Hill is an all-day thing. CrownGate just feels like an undercover high street" - I.B, Worcester
- "Parking charges (in Worcester) are extortionate - a real put off" A.H. Kempsey
- "We go to Pershore or other local towns (to shop) because we feel Worcester is hostile to car owners". C.J. Worcester
- "There must be a better service to take the homeless and to assist them into suitable homes" B.J. Worcester
- "There are now more shops in Worcester and there is more variety as well" Anon
- "I try and avoid shopping in Worcester, l feel the objective is to make it as difficult and unfriendly for the out-of-town car driver to visit and it is succeeding" D.M . Pershore