Shopfront assessments and contemporary town studies
During 2005, Romsey will surely be one of the most studied towns in the country. In addition to the assessment of the town's shopfronts, the Romsey and District Society is also in the process of writing a Town Design Statement and the County Council (HCC) and the Borough Council (TVBC) are jointly carrying out a town 'Health Check'. Additionally, TVBC is updating its 'Movement and Access Study', reassessing the Conservation Area and carrying out a review of parking in the town centre.
It is mostly by coincidence that all these activities are taking place at the same time. Some studies have begun because money has become available and others because it was time to update them. In the case of the Society, people prepared to do the work just happened to be available in the same time frame. There is some overlap in the studies but they tend to take different approaches and to become mutually supportive.
Objectives in assessing shopfronts
The main purpose of the assessment exercise is to form a baseline on which subsequent annual audits can be carried out. However, the work will also be useful to TVBC as a planning guidance document. The purpose of the audits is to maintain and where possible to improve the appearance of the town - an objective which is central to the ethos of any civic society. A well-presented townscape is good for shoppers and shopkeepers alike.
The concept of auditing the town's shopfronts arose from the work of other civic societies and discussions with TVBC began over two years ago. The council advised that the best approach would be to make a written description of the component parts of the shopfront (cornice, fascia, pilasters, capitals, stallrisers etc as shown on the diagram above) together with a comment on its value to the street scene. Each written assessment was to be accompanied by at least one photograph. The council provided the format and a sample completed assessment is shown on the last page of this note. Two complete sets of assessments were made, one for the council and the other retained by the Society for carrying out annual audits.
After some preliminary trials in 2003, a team of seven people did most of the work in autumn 2004 and spring 2005. Assessments of all 153 shopfronts and commercial buildings in the core of the Conservation Area were completed by June 2005.
Some findings from the assessments
Comparing Romsey with other market towns it is easy to find some that have been much better cared for and others that have not. The1960s/1970s was a particularly damaging period when the new which replaced the old was generally unattractive and less regard was paid to the value of older buildings than now. This can be seen in Romsey where there are some charming old shops, attractive new shops and some dire ones together with evidence of damage that has been done to quality buildings in the past. Some examples are given on the following pages.