Despairing locals have lamented over the state of their ‘thriving’ high street is now derelict after a slew of closures and a new retail park driving shoppers away.

Shoppers in Waterlooville, Hampshire expressed their ‘sadness’ today at how their beloved town centre would be dead if it wasn’t for the supermarket.

What used to be a ‘thriving’ high street has lost many big name stores including Waitrose, Wilko, Game and Peacocks in recent years.

The footfall has been ‘taken’ by a nearby retail park which tempts shoppers with the allure of Marks & Spencers.

The ‘barren’ high street has maintained its Wetherspoons, but many locals are growing tired of only having the choice of a charity shop or cafe – as they travel to nearby towns by car.

WATERLOOVILLE: A shopper walks by a dilapidated shop which once housed a Store Twenty One 

WATERLOOVILLE: The boarded up Wellington Way Shopping Centre just off the high street

WATERLOOVILLE: The boarded up Wellington Way Shopping Centre just off the high street

WATERLOOVILLE: Wendy and Eric Croad, 72 and 75 respectively, have lived in the area since 1955 but regret to see the area's sharp decline

WATERLOOVILLE: Wendy and Eric Croad, 72 and 75 respectively, have lived in the area since 1955 but regret to see the area’s sharp decline

WATERLOOVILLE: The footfall has been 'taken' by a nearby retail park which tempts shoppers with the allure of Marks & Spencers

WATERLOOVILLE: The footfall has been ‘taken’ by a nearby retail park which tempts shoppers with the allure of Marks & Spencers

BANBURY: Local resident Robert Page, 64, posing in front of a closed shop that used to be Debenhams

BANBURY: Local resident Robert Page, 64, posing in front of a closed shop that used to be Debenhams

BANBURY: Banbury residents have said their high street shops falling into hard times and closing down

BANBURY: Banbury residents have said their high street shops falling into hard times and closing down

Wendy and Eric Croad, 72 and 75 respectively, have lived in the area since 1955 but regret to see the area’s sharp decline.

Mr Croad said: ‘We used to have a picture house, now it’s derelict.

‘It’s mainly just charity shops, coffee shops and nail bars. Anything decent – not even decent – is at the retail park.’

Despite their misgivings, the couple make the most of it and visit the area almost daily.

‘We have a look in the charity shops and go to the ‘Spoons’,’ he added.

‘But we used to love it, there used to be loads of nice little shops.

‘I was up in Havant looking at an old map of Hampshire and the main road used to go right through here.’

Waterlooville, which is located near the South Downs National Park, is said to have its name originated from soldiers returning from nearby Portsmouth after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Many of them are believed to have settled there and the town pub was thereafter renamed in their honour and the area around the pub became known as Waterloo.

WATERLOOVILLE: A closed down Peacocks on Waterlooville's high street

WATERLOOVILLE: A closed down Peacocks on Waterlooville’s high street

WATERLOOVILLE: Waterlooville, which is located near the South Downs National Park, is said to have its name originated from soldiers returning from nearby Portsmouth after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815

WATERLOOVILLE: Waterlooville, which is located near the South Downs National Park, is said to have its name originated from soldiers returning from nearby Portsmouth after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815

WATERLOOVILLE: What used to be a 'thriving' high street has lost many big name stores including Waitrose , Wilko, Game and Peacocks in recent years

WATERLOOVILLE: What used to be a ‘thriving’ high street has lost many big name stores including Waitrose , Wilko, Game and Peacocks in recent years

WATERLOOVILLE: A man walks his dog past a closed down Game store on in Waterlooville

WATERLOOVILLE: A man walks his dog past a closed down Game store on in Waterlooville

Mrs Croad, who used to work in the shopping centre’s Iceland, said: ‘I feel very sad – it needs regenerating.

‘It was a lovely little place but it just looks so poor now – like Blackpool.

‘It looks very run down, it’s awful. Or if they’re not going to do that, then pull it down – they’d be better off doing that.

‘If you were a visitor here, you wouldn’t think much of it.’

Of a particularly barren stretch, where only a Sue Ryder charity shop remains, she observed: ‘I don’ think people are wanting to move into these units.

‘If Iceland wasn’t here this place would be dead. Footfall here in general is being kept up by Iceland and Asda.

‘It’s a sign of the times, supermarkets have taken over,’ she said.

Sandra Hunt, 67, has lived in the area for 36 years, but has never seen things as bad as they are today.

‘It looks like something from a zombie apocalypse,’ she said.

‘Sometimes it can be a bit scary, a bit barren. It’s quite depressing, especially with what it used to be like. We used to have loads of people here.’

The closed Waitrose car park has now been made free for visitors to try and reverse the economic malaise, but to no avail.

WATERLOOVILLE: Dennis Rogers, 79, moved to the area 14 years ago, but is dismayed at the increasing number of empty shopfronts

WATERLOOVILLE: Dennis Rogers, 79, moved to the area 14 years ago, but is dismayed at the increasing number of empty shopfronts

WATERLOOVILLE: Two dilapidated store fronts in Waterlooville

WATERLOOVILLE: Two dilapidated store fronts in Waterlooville

BANBURY: Kate Malzack, 24, comments on her high street shops falling into hard times

BANBURY: Kate Malzack, 24, comments on her high street shops falling into hard times

‘That’s now free and it’s always full, but I don’t know where everybody goes because the high street isn’t busy,’ she added.

Mrs Hunt said footfall has been ‘taken’ by a retail park the other side of a busy road – which boasts a TK Maxx, Marks & Spencer, Matalan, Sainsbury’s and Home Bargains.

‘It’s very busy over there,’ she added, ‘but it’s taken away from the actual town centre because it’s so poor here.

‘If it were better here they would shop here.’

Mrs Hunt admitted she was one of the many to look elsewhere for high street satisfaction, as the touch typist often travels to nearby Havant for a mooch, rather than her hometown.

‘I was coming up here all the time because I live within walking distance,’ she continued. Now I get in the car and go to Havant, the retail park is too busy.’

Her daughter, 43 year old Lisa Bennett, has moved to nearby Havant, but isn’t impressed with how Waterlooville has changed since her childhood.

‘It’s been like this for a long time,’ she said. ‘The council are trying to get a scheme to get more businesses in here, but nothing’s happened.

‘It’s just sad, especially as there is so much more housing being built.

Mike Holmes, 38, moved into a new build estate five years ago and thinks the deteriorating high street is ‘terrible’.

The father of two said: ‘It’s shocking. The high street is just terrible, it’s ridiculous, just coffee shops and charity shops.

‘There’s no reason to come here – it’s awful look at the state of it.’ 

The 'barren' high street has maintained its Wetherspoons , but many locals are growing tired of only having the choice of a charity shop or cafe - as they travel to nearby towns by car

The ‘barren’ high street has maintained its Wetherspoons , but many locals are growing tired of only having the choice of a charity shop or cafe – as they travel to nearby towns by car

Empty shop fronts at Wellington Way Shopping Centre just off Waterlooville High Street

Empty shop fronts at Wellington Way Shopping Centre just off Waterlooville High Street

Mr Holmes, who recognised the irony as he was on his way to the retail park, said he was particularly worried about what facilities would be made available to his sons when they grow up.

‘It worries me,’ he continued. ‘You worry about the sustainability if they don’t spend some money.’

He said there had been reports of vandalism at a boarded up store. ‘They’ve tried to address that with the skate park,’ he added.

‘But there’s nothing to do around here, everyone was young once. I worry about the boys and how I’m going to keep them away from that.

‘Every high street in Britain is falling apart, but this one seems particularly bad.’

Dennis Rogers, 79, moved to the area 14 years ago, but is dismayed at the increasing number of empty shopfronts.

‘I come here all of the time,’ the retired carpenter said. ‘It’s just sad – all we have are charity shops and no clothes shops.

‘This used to be a thriving high street.’

Meanwhile, residents of the once ‘buzzing’ market town of Banbury, Oxfordshire, have voiced their dismay at the state of their local high streets as droves of desolate shops and boarded up buildings slowly take over the town centre.

‘This town is slowly dying on its knees, said Robert Page, a 64-year-old film posters collector who was ‘born and bred’ in Banbury.

BANBURY: Christopher Chandler, 59, is pictured in his shop on the high street

BANBURY: Christopher Chandler, 59, is pictured in his shop on the high street 

BANBURY: Barbara Czarkowska is pictured with her dog on the high street in Banbury

BANBURY: Barbara Czarkowska is pictured with her dog on the high street in Banbury 

He said: ‘It’s a shame because Banbury is a real historic place, and in the 1970s it was a real buzzing little town.

‘I’m from a farming background and we used to hold one of the biggest cattle market in Europe. But everything is gone now. The standards have really dropped here, to be honest.

‘There is no money coming in, so it’s a vicious circle. New shops open and because they can’t keep up with the rent they close within three months.’

He added: ‘There are many factors coming into play – but I think people are too tight to pay for the parking here. If the council could make parking free over a trial period of six to eight weeks, it would entice people to come shop here.’

Once shut down and boarded up, some buildings remain deserted for months – sometimes years.

Robert, who has lived in the region his whole life, says he has seen the beloved town weather away over the past three years.

Pointing at a beautiful but derelict-looking historical building across the street which used to be an oriental restaurant, Robert said: ‘This has been boarded up for a couple years now.

‘It’s a shame because in here, and around this area, all the surroundings are beautiful – the Cotswolds is on our doorstep.’

Robert reckoned that since the pandemic and the mass exodus of city dwellers to the English countryside, the cost of living and property has become higher for locals – which in turn has a negative impact on the local economy.

He said: ‘People will want to buy a house around here but they can’t do it anymore because everyone is moving in from the capital.

‘And schools and hospitals – everywhere is struggling, everywhere needs money. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.’

BANBURY: Dion Barrie, 27, comments on the high street falling apart in Banbury

BANBURY: Dion Barrie, 27, comments on the high street falling apart in Banbury 

Ms Czarkowska is a young woman who has lived in Banbury for ten years and said she noticed a big decline in the wake of the pandemic

Ms Czarkowska is a young woman who has lived in Banbury for ten years and said she noticed a big decline in the wake of the pandemic

In the Castle Quay shopping centre, a council-owned retail spot just off Market Place and High Street in Banbury town centre, nearly 15 shops have closed down over the past couple years – and they have remained empty since.

The situation is not any better on Market Place itself or on the High Street where many businesses from retail shops to fast foods to charity shops have shut down.

Christopher Chandler, a 59-year-old barista at The Coffee Guys, serves customers from a mobile coffee bar he has parked in the middle of Market Place.

He said: ‘It’s been a downward spiral for quite some time – especially since we have lost the big drawers at the shopping centre like M&S and Debenhams.

‘For years, it looked as if it was us high street traders against the shopping centre – we were trying to get people out of the shopping centre.

‘Now were are just trying to get people back to Banbury any way we can. But I think it’s like that up and down the country.’

According to Christopher, who has been trading in Banbury since 1956, the cost of parking is the first barrier to a reviving the town centre.

He said: ‘Parking is the biggest issue. It could certainly use some more creative solutions – like giving free parking to local traders.’

Christopher, who downsized his coffee shop from a local town centre building to the mobile bar, said the increase in rent prices over the past five years have played a huge role in decimating Banbury’s commercial streets.

He said: ‘We started noticing a difference after the subprime crisis in 2008 – it’s been pretty rough and rocky ever since.’

Barbara Czarkowska, a young woman who has lived in Banbury for ten years, said she noticed a big decline in the wake of the pandemic.

She said: ‘The shopping centre is all empty now so you can’t do any shopping here, you have to go online – but I don’t want to go online! I want to walk around, come for a coffee, and stop by some shops on the way.’

Young mothers Dion Barrie, 27, and Kate Melzack, 24, said they dreaded the time their kids would be big enough to want to go out on their own – only to find out Banbury town centre had nothing to offer them.

‘Everything is at the retail park now, even the fast foods – Banbury town centre is just lots of coffee shops and nothing else,’ Kate said. ‘For people that walk like we do, it’s a real shame.’

Dion, whose child is aged 14 months, said: ‘If you want to take the kids anywhere that’s enjoyable for them, you have to go to Oxford and either drive or take public transports. But the buses around here are very busy and often late.’

She added: ‘I think that’s why a lot of young kids get in trouble these days – they’re bored.’

Kate, who kept an eye on her six-months-old baby boy asleep in the pushchair, agreed and said: ‘We used to do things at the youth club to raise money to go away. But all the youth clubs have disappeared too.

‘So the kids here, they are just hanging around and there’s physically nothing for them to do – at all.’

She added: ‘I used to really enjoy coming into town to do some shopping but I don’t anymore – there’s nothing to do.’

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