WITH less than two weeks to go, the call has gone out to the people of Tunbridge Wells to get behind The Pantiles by voting for the historic promenade in this year’s Great British High Street Competition.
Two judges from the Department for Communities and Local Government [DCLG], which runs the initiative, visited the Georgian parade of shops on Friday [November 4], with their assessment making up 50 per cent of the total score.
However, the remainder comes from public votes and despite momentum picking up since voting started last month, Tunbridge Wells is still trailing in third place in its category – best Local Centre/Parade of Shops – behind two other destinations in Chester and Claygate.
Although the competition’s organisers will not disclose the current number of votes each destination has, they did reveal to the Times that The Pantiles had ‘significantly closed the gap’ on its nearest rival, The Parade in Claygate, Surrey, gaining 2,000 votes in the week before the judges’ visit.
“If Tunbridge Wells continued at this rate, they would be storming ahead,” said Amina Makele of the DCLG.
A total score of 200 points is available for each destination, the awarding of which is split between the judges and the public vote.
The number of points awarded from the public element is proportional to the percentage of
the public vote it received. For example, if The Pantiles receives 60 per cent of the public vote,
it gets 60 out of the 100 points available.
The other half of their total will come from the average judge’s score, out of 100. Therefore, if the judges give an average of 50, the total awarded to The Pantiles would be a score of 110 out of 200.
During her visit to Tunbridge Wells, judge Jaya Relwani explained what she was looking for when it comes to making her assessments in the best Local Centre/Parade of Shops category, and aesthetics alone were not good enough.
“For me, a good High Street is where you can eat, meet friends, pay your bills, shop – do everything. At the end of the day, the aesthetics here are great, but you would hope people can make the most of what they have.
“We are looking for a real community spirit. This is achieved through collaboration between retailers, landlords and the public, and even somewhere not as beautiful can have that.”
Julian Leefe-Griffiths, who runs the Tunbridge Wells Hotel and is the key organiser of Jazz on The Pantiles, said: “It would be great if everyone could get out and vote and come together on this.
“Whilst winning would be great, what’s important is that there is a vibrant array of businesses and a great sense of community, which we certainly have. If we got the accolade, I would be overjoyed.
“To all the residents of Tunbridge Wells I say, your town needs you.”
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has also thrown his support behind the campaign.
He said: “I’ve already voted for The Pantiles in the Great British High Street Competition, and I urge everyone to do the same.
“Public votes make up 50 per cent of the final decision, so your support is vital. Let’s put Tunbridge Wells on the map as one of the best shopping destinations in the country.”
The Pantiles was put up for nomination in the Great British High Street Competition by Targetfollow, who bought the Upper Walk in 2008, alongside the Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons, for £11million. Eileen Leahy spoke to Antony Moore, an Assistant Asset Manager at the company, about why they chose to throw their hat into the ring.
Why did you decide to enter The Pantiles into the Great British High Street Competition?
We understand the shift in shopping patterns between the High Street and online retailing and we recognise that competitions like the Great British High Street of the Year are a fantastic way of getting people back to the high street.
After some research into the awards, we concluded that The Pantiles possessed many of the qualities that the competition was looking for. Qualities such as innovation, adaptability and community spirit. We have worked especially hard this year to grow and develop The Pantiles with all of the Pantiles Traders, and we saw the Great British High Street Competition as the perfect opportunity to showcase our efforts and that of the Pantiles Traders on a national platform.
What was the timeframe from finding out the awards existed to being shortlisted?
We found out about the awards back in July and submitted the application in August. We received the good news that The Pantiles had been shortlisted in the Local Centre category in mid-October.
We were thrilled and honoured that The Pantiles had been recognised as one of Britain’s best high streets. Now we are working hard on the ‘Vote Pantiles’ campaign.
Why do you think The Pantiles has the edge when it comes to winning the category?
The Pantiles is a truly unique destination featuring a host of dedicated and passionate traders. We have some wonderful independent and national retail outlets, fantastic restaurants and bars, and a renowned year-through events programme, all set against a backdrop of Great British history and stunning 17th-century architecture. We even have our very own spring. What other venue in the UK can boast all of that?
Did you find that the majority of the Pantiles Traders got behind the campaign to get people voting for The Pantiles?
The traders have been amazing, and as we suspected, they have fully engaged to drive the campaign forward. We have also seen some great support from our extended Pantiles community in the town. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and the team at Royal Tunbridge Wells Together have been, and continue to be, very supportive, and we would also like to thank the Times of Tunbridge Wells and The Pantiles News for their support.
There is, of course, still time to vote, so I am sure that the traders will continue to push until the very end and the good people of Tunbridge Wells will show their support and get voting.
HOW TO VOTE
To show support for your town, visit:
Go to the competition page and select Local Centre/Parade of Shops.
Voting takes less than two minutes to do online, and simply involves entering your email address and nothing more.
Voting closes at midnight on Friday November 18.