The blighted shops Lowfield St Dartford

The blighted shops Lowfield St Dartford

The sign on the road into Dartford welcomes you to “Historic Dartford”. Unfortunately this market town is about to have its historical heart ripped out and all to make way for a new Tesco superstore. The shops in Lowfield Street are about to be demolished. Richardson’s butchers is one of the few shops still opened but a notice went up this week. After 104 years in the same shop it will be closing down 8th February.

Richardson's Butchers

Richardson’s Butchers

Let me tell you a little about this small family butchers. It has been selling locally sourced meat to the Dartford community since 1908. When I ordered a goose, this Christmas, Ray Richardson (the current owner) advised me to walk around the back of the shop where there is some open land. There I could see the geese roaming freely. The chickens they sell are raised on local farms and are more flavoursome than anything Tesco could provide, even from their “Extra” range. At one time there were other shops in the street each with their unique offer but a planning process that’s taken eleven years as blighted the area.

There are two reasons I am dismayed about events. Firstly, the thought of every town looking exactly the same and with the same dull offer is just limiting. There’s little point in visiting different places. Secondly, we should cherish old buildings especially in an historic market town. They are probably better built than anything planned. Take a look at the drawings for the new Dartford Tesco here dull and from the same architectural stable as the Woolwich store. Note the claims that the anchor store is going to drive business in the rest of the town. Well not according to one of the leading retail academics and Government adviser Professor Alan Hallsworth:

“I categorically do not accept that any superstore of any size can be dumped into a small market town and no damage will ensue.” Read full article here.

Dartford is an old market town and its charter dates back to James ll. The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel dates back to 1703 and it is still a pub with accommodation. There is a space further down the High Street where the Le Bell public house stood which dated back to 1507 but was sadly demolished in 1962.

Mural at Bell Corner

Mural at Bell Corner

An information board here titled One Town that Changed the World cites interesting facts such as Dartford was the first town to use gas lights. All that needs to be added is that there was once a fine parade of Victorian shops in Lowfield Street.

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