Geography: Upper Sixth Pupils Investigate High Street Declines

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Bede’s Geography department recently took its Upper Sixth Geographers to Ashford to investigate the impacts of out-of-town retailing.

The students spent the morning in the town’s Central Business District and then headed over to the outlet mall to get a first-hand experience of each shopping area.

The pupils will be examined on this piece of fieldwork in their final A2 exams, and it will also help their understanding of the changing nature of urban areas.

To inform their investigation, the pupils had a base map of all of the shops in Ashford, with their first task being to plot all of the current shop uses. They then compared the present day shops with those that were there back in the year 2000, at around the time the Ashford Designer Outlet opened.

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Bede’s has a historical map of Ashford showing exactly what the town centre was like back when the Designer Outlet was just being opened, and although that particular mall isn’t the only out-of-town retailing opportunity in Ashford it is certainly the one that gets the most attention.

Coach loads of shoppers (to the tune of 30 million per year) visit the outlets annually in the hope of picking up designer bargains, with the vast majority never setting foot in the town centre.

The students also surveyed the environmental quality of the town centre and interviewed some shoppers to find out where they had travelled from and what they thought of the CBD.

The cold weather didn’t deter people from stopping to share their opinions with the students and, as expected, most of those that responded to the questionnaire had only travelled a short distance to services such as local shops and banks.

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The pupils then observed how the environment differed at the Designer Outlets. There was also an opportunity for the Upper Sixth to take advantage of the facilities of the mall’s food court, about which they had many positive things to say, before surveying some of the people working in the outlets.

All acquired useful data and a definite sense that the out-of-town amenities offered a much more cosmopolitan shopping area, drawing in people from far and wide. This was quite understandable when looking at the wide range of brands on offer, the attractive environment and easy parking facilities.

Sadly, the out of town shopping in Ashford does appear to be taking its toll on the town centre, with many more vacant shops and charity shops being evident. Pupils will now use the data collected, as well as their observations, to formally analyse the changes that have occurred over the last 20 years.

 

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