Summer in Salcombe and the High street lives on!

Sorry the blog has been so quiet recently. The last few months have been extremely busy at work and I have just moved house too! Thankfully we have just returned rested from our summer holiday. Every year we head down to Salcombe in South Devon.

One of the reasons I enjoy Salcombe specifically is because it is the complete antithesis of my largely ‘urban’ work-life spent in London, Nottingham and Manchester etc…

Salcombe is a small town of around permanent 1000 inhabitants. For such a small place, I’m always surprised how many people I speak to seem to know about Salcombe. Its main economy is tourism and fishing (especially shellfish). The former taking the majority. In summer, Salcombe can see around 10,000 people holidaying in a small number of hotels and large number of holiday houses/ cottages/ apartments; a mix of second homes and rental properties. Salcombe’s property market is said to be the second highest outside of London. Sandbanks, near Poole being the No. 1 location.

Wherever you look in the media we are told that ‘the High street is dead’ – well not in Salcombe (in the summer at least). Going back to why I like Salcombe; the high street is a real treat. There is no Costa Coffee or Tesco’s here (or anywhere nearby!). If you want bread, you go to the Bakery (which also turns into a Creperie at night), Meat is supplied by the Butchers, Coffee can bought from several local suppliers such as Salcombe Coffee Company. Ice-cream is in plentiful supply – from the Salcombe Dairy. There’s an amazing, bright pink (!), old fashioned sweet shop called Cranch’s. There are a number of excellent Deli’s, at least five great pubs and an amazing selection of restaurants – all good quality. There is also a wide range of clothing retailers, including the first and original Jack Wills store (49 now exist across the UK). Life here is good. Expensive perhaps, but matched by quality. I suspect the national retailers have been resisted by the Local Authority, but I may be wrong. I wonder if the usual suspects could survive here? Is this place such a niche?

Being in this town you can see and sense the ‘community spirit’. People know each other and seem to work together. The lack of big name retailers and plentiful Independent Retailers seems to give the place unique character, identity and ownership. I appreciate this is largely because its a small town and larger urban centres are more complex socially and economically, but I, like many others, think we should encourage a better mix of Independents in our towns and cities elsewhere. One example I can think of where you do get a sense of this is St. Pancras station in London – a very different context.

Salcombe is a beautiful and enjoyable place to be. Especially in the Summer. I do however appreciate there is another side; The locals have a long and quiet winter to survive. Their reliance on tourism is seasonal and some businesses practically shut down in the winter. Add property prices in Salcombe which continue to rise and are in huge demand. This means its very difficult to even find property here – let alone be able to afford to buy it. This must be a major challenge for the local people to continue to live here, especially first-time buyers/ younger generations. There have been a small number of affordable developments around Salcombe in recent years. I wonder at what point the ‘community’ might start to diminish? No doubt it already has compared with its previous years.

This year is a little different for us, although not for me. Next to our apartment is a building site. Harbour Hotels with Galliford Try are redeveloping the Salcombe Harbour hotel. They are downsizing and upgrading the hotel offer in terms of rooms and building 14 new residential properties on the waterfront. The scheme is called Estura and houses range from £1.4m to £2.4m – no affordable housing here! This project, or others like it, have been in the pipeline for many years on this site. Its good to see something actually happening in one respect.

Salcombe has a great high street and a thriving local economy, from May to October at least. Its a small place, but punches above its weight, defined by a unique and characterful economic and built-form fabric. This gives it a clear identity which I have no doubt is key to its success and attractiveness.

Tomorrow I return to work and no doubt normality and my busy lifestyle will resume quickly. We have some good things happening in the next few weeks, including some big developments for our Manchester office – more on that to follow soon…

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