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Trading Places - Royston

PUBLISHED: 12:30 09 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:32 20 February 2013

Mark Weatherhead, owner of Mark Weatherhead Garden Machinery

Mark Weatherhead, owner of Mark Weatherhead Garden Machinery

Small, yet perfectly formed, the forward-thinking market town of Royston is striving ahead in the 21st century, as Richard Young discovers...

RADIATING out from the ancient High Street, Roystons town centre retains many independent traders, some of which have been family businesses for generations, giving this town of 15,000 people at the northern most point of the county its unique identity.


These jewellers, hairdressers, cafes, card, clothes and gift shops mix with trusty chain stores such as Boots, WHSmith, Peacocks and Store 21 as well as all the major banks. In all there are some 80 retailers located in Roystons three main shopping streets.


Being a market town of centuries standing, on Wednesdays and Saturdays the original charter market still takes place on Market Hill, selling everything from fruit and veg to hats and hardware, while a continental market takes place twice a year.


Market manager Emma Burgess said they have had a lot of new traders.
Its really picking up with new furniture, childrens clothes and electrical stalls. On Saturday its very busy with lots of fresh flowers. Theres a really nice atmosphere. People come from the town and villages to get their fruit and veg and fish. The longest standing trader is the fish seller, who started in 1952 and the fruit and veg sellers have been there years.
For refreshment there are half a dozen pubs, all of which serve food, and over 20 restaurants, giving visitors and locals alike a variety of eating and watering holes.


The town centre is a pleasant space, having generally benefited from planners rather than being blighted by them and is easily accessed with over 400 parking spaces within five minutes of the High Street.


A park in the centre of town has great childrens play facilities and exits in the western and northern sides of the park lead directly to the shopping areas.


Since 2009 Royston town centre has benefited from becoming a Business Improvement District. Traders have joined forces within the district to pay a levy for initiatives that make it more attractive for shoppers and prospective businesses. In turn the aim is to create a vibrant shopping area and boost sales.


The five-year plan, called Royston First, has seen schemes such as extra police patrols and a free shuttle bus service, and more are planned.
Town centre manager, Geraint Burnell, says things are going well.


There have been somewhere in the region of 20 new openings in the past 18 months, with a further three new outlets under conversion at this time, he says.


A project to update a small 1960s shopping precinct has commenced with a repaving project and a 400,000 revamp of a nearby public space planned for the summer. Plans are currently well under way for part of the town hall to be converted into a state-of-the-art cinema by the end of 2011.


All this could explain why there are only three or four empty retail units in the town centre and three major house building schemes either underway or about to start on the edges of the town.


Outside of the town centre, Royston boasts an economically powerful yet discreet industrial area, which benefits from the towns position as a transport hub at the intersection of the A10 and the A505 as well as being easily linked by rail to Cambridge and London.


Here you will find the headquarters of the FTSE100 company Johnson Matthey which engineers precious metals and catalytic converters, as well as a wide range of light industrial companies. Alongside hauliers and manufacturers there are a number of retail operations including electrical and building suppliers as well as furniture and bathroom outfitters.

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