Bishop’s Waltham is runner-up in market town high street of the year awards

Press Release: 10/11/2014

Bishops Waltham Street

 Bishop’s Waltham is runner-up in the first ever Great British High Street Awards.

With a population of around 6,500, the market town is small compared to many other entrants, but both shop-owners and local community groups, with the help of local councils, have worked hard over the last two and a half years to bring renewed life, interest and a sense of belonging to a historic high street that dates back to at least 1332.

The judges praised the impressive combination of innovative events and activities, community collaboration and a strong identity - no doubt helped along by the town’s old-world charm.

In a letter to Bishop’s Waltham Town Team, Penny Mordaunt MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said:

As you know, we received over 135 entries for the Awards and to be shortlisted as a finalist among such tough competition is a fantastic achievement and we are delighted that your successes have now been recognised nationally as well as locally. You should be incredibly proud of your position in the shortlist.

The newly established Awards are designed by the government to identify and reward towns where both traders and community groups have come together to show what can be done to make high streets the sort of place where people want to work, shop and socialise; somewhere that creates or builds on a sense of local community.

Bishop’s Waltham was pipped at the post by the larger town of Belper in Derbyshire which came first in the Market Towns category and was overall winner across all categories. However, Tony Kippenberger, Chairman of the Bishop’s Waltham Town Team, is proud of what the town has achieved. He said:

We are really excited that Bishop’s Waltham has been recognised as having such a great high street. It’s also good that those involved in supporting it are seen as front-runners in innovation and local collaboration. Everyone has pulled together to make it such a success, and we now look forward to building on this in the future.

Remarkably for such a small town, Bishop’s Waltham still has a butcher, a baker, a greengrocer and a fishmonger. That is quite apart from around 45 other independent shops. Three years ago eight premises had closed down – about 15% of the independents - but today there is just one recently vacant shop and that is already under offer.

George Hollingbery, MP for the Meon Valley, said:

Although Bishop’s Waltham did not win, it can feel justly proud of getting to the final stages of the competition and I congratulate everyone involved in a great campaign.

I’m sure that the voting was very close and, even though not completely successful, Bishop’s Waltham remains a great place to visit and shop and I’m sure it will continue to go from strength to strength.

I also hope the competition will act as a reminder that this sort of High Street is now rare in Britain and everything should be done to cherish it.

The local Town Team was formed in 2012 to future-proof the existing High Street after a new superstore was granted planning permission on the town’s outskirts. The team includes representatives from the Chamber of Trade, Parish Council, Bishop’s Waltham Society, Bishop’s Waltham in Bloom, Bishop’s Waltham Museum Trust and Winchester City Council - a great example of successful collaboration.

Cllr Robert Humby, Leader of Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Councillor for Bishop’s Waltham, said:

I am delighted that Bishop’s Waltham was shortlisted for Best British Market Town High Street. The Town Team is an example of real, successful partnership working which has achieved great success. I am proud to have been part of the journey to get to this point.

With a mix of funding from Central Government, Winchester City Council and Bishop’s Waltham Parish Council, the Bishop’s Waltham Town Team recruited a Market Towns’ Development Officer, Heidi Isa, who has developed initiatives to increase the number of visitors and retail footfall, including the “Pumpkins on Parade” family event, the “Come Dine With Us” celebration of food and an Easter Egg Hunt attracting over 300 children and their families to the high street over the holidays. There is even a QR-coded town trail which informs visitors of the history of the sites around the high street. A survey conducted among traders in August 2014 showed that business confidence is at an all-time high with 78% of traders reporting an increase in turnover and 89% believing the economic prosperity of the high street has improved.