How foodie culture could save the high street

By Sally Lockwood, news correspondent
High streets and town centres have been in decline for many years with few successful solutions, but Altrincham in Cheshire is bucking the national trend and showing other towns how it's done.
The market hall in its town centre is buzzing, with independent businesses serving food from artisan pizzas to British steaks - along with craft beer, wine and coffee.
Trestle tables are packed with people - dogs and children are welcome - and groups in little rush to leave.
How foodie culture could save the high street

The market is packed at lunchtime - and often even earlier
I assume it must be the lunchtime rush, but as we are given a tour by its brainchild Nick Johnson, he says it has been packed since 9am.This is a place that had the highest rate of empty shops for a medium town in the UK just four years ago.Not only is its vacancy rate now well below the national average, it has become almost a blueprint for towns looking to revive their abandoned centres.
How foodie culture could save the high street

People of all ages have come in their droves to enjoy the various cuisines
Mr Johnson has a wealth of background in property - he was commissioner for the government's architecture watchdog, CABE, and he was an adviser to the select committee on regeneration.But as he saw the decline in his hometown of Altrincham, he made the decision to resign from his various positions of authority, roll up his sleeves, and do something about it.It was not easy convincing so many parties to change the original market and follow his vision, but six years ago he succeeded and it has made Altrincham one of the most talked about towns in the North West.
How foodie culture could save the high street

Nick Johnson is the brains behind the idea
He told Sky News that town centres have stopped reflecting the lives of the people who live there - and that needs to change for them to survive."They've all become these Stepford towns that are sleepwalking through existence and we need to inject identity and character and individuality," he said."I don't think replicating this is directly the solution, but there are lots of lessons that you can learn about what has made this special and you can make it happen in a different location with different people producing something that's slightly different. That's something that I think will be really exciting."
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