MEMBERS of the Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce have called for a design guide to help make the town’s retail shop fronts more attractive to visitors.

They say Wiltshire’s county town could benefit from having a design guide similar to that in Chippenham, where it is part of the Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan.

Kez Garner, chairman of Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have asked the town council and Wiltshire Council for a design guide and they both think that it’s a good idea.

“Some of the shop fronts have been renovated as part of the Future High Street Funds for Trowbridge businesses to relocate and expand.

Wiltshire Times: Stylish: Finney’s Hair in Silver Street. Photo: Trevor Porter 70321-5Stylish: Finney’s Hair in Silver Street. Photo: Trevor Porter 70321-5 (Image: Trevor Porter)

“We have been very impressed with what Wiltshire Council has done because they have approved heritage-type shop fronts.

“But we are very frustrated that no more has been done to produce a design guide which we think would benefit the whole of Wiltshire.

“We would like them to take the Chippenham plan and make it Wiltshire-wide. We think it would help all the towns.

“Shop fronts are hideously expensive to buy. If we had a design guide it would give some guidance to architects and landlords and make them think about what is acceptable and save them money.”

Commenting on local social media, Trowbridge Town Council leader Cllr Stewart Palmen said: “A design guide is a good idea but Town Council cannot enforce it as Wiltshire Council are the planning authority.”

Wiltshire Times: The 7 Days shop front on Wicker Hill has critics divided. Some like it and some don't. Photo: Trevor Porter 70322-5The 7 Days shop front on Wicker Hill has critics divided. Some like it and some don't. Photo: Trevor Porter 70322-5 (Image: Trevor Porter)

Cllr Nick Botterill, Wiltshire Council's Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, said: “Our adopted Core Strategy provides a framework to deliver good design for all types of development including shop fronts to help create a strong sense of place.

"This is developed further in our new draft Local Plan which continues to require sensitive design of shop frontages, advertisements and signage that is also sympathetic to its local setting.

“Local design guidance such as that being prepared through neighbourhood plans can help supplement policy and promote local distinctiveness.”

Some Trowbridge residents think a design guide would encourage retailers to make their shop fronts more attractive to entice customers inside.

One woman said: “So once again Trowbridge drags its feet. We are supposed to be enhancing the town yet it seems when anything is suggested, and other towns forge forward with the same suggestion, we stutter and pass the buck between the two councils when they should be working hard together.”

A man added: “It's a wonderful aesthetic that you'd find in Corsham or Marlborough or even Bradford on Avon, but unfortunately it mostly skips Trowbridge for being a more functional working town with its history of Bowyers and Ushers, a lot of the shop frontage merely does what it says on the tin.

“If done in a specific place such as Church Walk next to St James’ Church, which already has a nice look to it with Absolutely Fabulous, the florists, so you could have a go at giving the Codfather a more classic look or the employment agencies and a revamped hairdressers.

“Unfortunately, no incentive exists to create photogenic shopfronts which might have made some change happen already.”

Wiltshire Times: Mega Pizza in Roundstone Street with an exterior that could do with a spruce up. Photo: Trevor Porter 70322-1Mega Pizza in Roundstone Street with an exterior that could do with a spruce up. Photo: Trevor Porter 70322-1 (Image: Trevor Porter)

In Chippenham, the shop front design guide has been included in the town’s Neighbourhood Plan.

It aims to ensure residents and visitors spend locally with these businesses and benefit from an enjoyable shopping and leisure experience.

It also serves to ensure that Chippenham’s heritage assets are enhanced and put to a viable use consistent with their conservation.

The guide says: “High quality shopfront design set within a cohesive streetscape can have tremendous impact on the retail and visitor experience, especially at a time where the role of the traditional high street is changing at an unprecedented rate and has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Shopfronts are the most conspicuous part of a commercial building’s façade. As the first point of contact between a business and the public, a well-designed shopfront is integral to enticing customers inside.

“High quality, well-maintained shopfronts make a town feel more welcoming to locals and visitors. They contribute towards a stronger sense of identity, and importantly, encourage a greater number of visitors.”