Brave new world or death throes of our high street?

COMMENT: The days of Camden High Street being a useful hub for residents of NW1 seem to be numbered

Thursday, 21st April

laracroft

How many Camden residents will try out the Lara Croft adventure?

WHAT do we want from Camden Town? That depends who the “we” are.

The world-famous heart of NW1 has always been the preserve of tourists and out-of-towners. Rarely, if ever, has it served the wants or cares of Camden residents.

And yet the market and all its vagaries were for many years tolerated, up to a point, because it was at least unique.

Its steel toe-booted mohican punks, off-cut clothes bargains, shadowy street dealers and thriving music scene had an underground edge that attracted people from all walks of life.

That was the experience that has for decades drawn millions each week to Camden Town.

There has been a concerted attempt from various authorities to clean up Camden for many years.

Police have made attempts to crack down on drug-pushing around the Lock and Inverness Street, and to shut down the rows of cannabis paraphernalia tourist trap shops.

There have been questionable moves to shift the homeless away, in a bid to change the feel of the streets outside the tube.

The transformation has seen a Covent Garden-style makeover to the markets. Rows of chain shops have moved in and the booking slot-only busking has brought with it a new stage-managed vibe of predictability and faux creativity.

Many tourists now pour out of the tube only to stand around looking a little at each other with a puzzled frown, wondering what the fuss is all about?

The convenience of online shopping now means a day out rustling through racks of second hand clothes in Camden Town is no longer an experience worth the trip.

Sadly, our great market stall culture has been dying for years and retail is in a perilous state.

The days of Camden High Street being a useful hub for residents of NW1 seem to be numbered.

The popular supermarket, Lidl, is set to board up in the coming weeks and move out of Camden Town.

With bills rising extortionately, you would think lower-cost food outlets like Lidl would be expecting to thrive in the coming years. But even it cannot maintain its place in our high street.

Paradoxically, high rents and rates will prohibit any independent business from moving in.

And so the future of Camden looks set to be intergalactic themed arcades and fairground rides.

The tourist throngs want a thrill and a selfie to boot. That is what is driving change in Camden Town, not the people who live around here.

How many Camden residents will ride the new ferris wheel or rollercoaster, or try out the Lara Croft adventure or Peaky Blinders experience?

Is this a brave new world developing for Camden Town, or its death throes?

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