Pocklington small shops ‘in vogue’

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AT Brown’s fruit and veg stall a question sparks a lively debate next to the rhubarb and Seville oranges.

It’s about housebuilding in Pocklington and whether it will help shops in the town centre – but quickly leads to complaints about the “atrocious” car parking.

Josie Taylor who works on Brown's fruit and vegetable stall.

Josie Taylor who works on Brown's fruit and vegetable stall.

The town – population 8,377, 2011 figures – is growing fast, with 1,500 new homes planned or built.

But will the newcomers come into town or hop directly onto the A1079 and drive to York 14 miles away, or merely order their shopping from the comfort of their sofas?

Trader Josie Taylor, who has worked on the stall in the Tuesday market for years, says despite the new homes she hasn’t seen any new faces.

She has her loyal customers week in, week out: “I can’t say it is any busier. They probably go out of town, call in at a supermarket or just do it online. It’s the old ones that are loyal.”

For a small town, Pocklington seems well stocked for shops – everything from antiques to a stationer’s and a bookshop – although for a pair of men’s socks you do have to go into York, a local says.

Right in the centre of the marketplace is the jewel in 
the crown, Pocklington Arts Centre.

There are more than enough hairdressers, several cafes and it still has a police station.

While Pocklington may have lost two banks, it still has three – HSBC, Barclays and Nationwide – an achievement these days when many a similar-sized town – Hornsea is one example – has lost theirs.

And people say shops do not stay empty long – including the vacant NatWest, which is going to be a restaurant.

There’s a new butcher’s, A. Laverack & Son, with a stylish new counter showing huge sirloin and T-bone steaks dry-ageing in a way to make any carnivore salivate, and a new bar, Market Tap, serving a wide range of Yorkshire beers.

Butcher Michael Smith says Laverack’s is what the town needs: “We’ve had a really positive reaction. This was something Pocklington needed, a bit more modern. People needed a reason to come into the high street again.”

“If you look at the high street generally and compare it to where we are, we are doing OK,” says independent bookshop owner Vince Morgan, who took the leap from IT and opened Readwell and Wright in 2015.

“There’s more houses, more people and hopefully more customers for what we can deliver to them.

“If we can resolve the parking issue to the benefit of the high street, we will remain a very healthy high street.”

Frances Atkinson, who has run Allsorts antiques for 27 years, says the town went into a bit of a decline in the 2000s, but now seems to be on the up, boosted by the “York effect”, with more affluent types attracted to the cheaper housing to be had in the town.

She said: “I think it is definitely on a roll again. Small shops are quite in vogue.

“People still like good quality, quirky items – but the price has to be right. (People on the new estates) are not going to walk in, they are quite a way out.

“We need a decent car park, keep the little crafty shops going and I think (another) supermarket is lacking here.”

With many streets free to park for two hours, shoppers are arguably not too badly off.

In any case, says town clerk Gordon Scaife, there’s no chance of a new car park “without flattening a few shops.”

The town council has invested £6,200 into a bus service to get people into town, particularly on market day, and there’s a loyalty card scheme to encourage people to use local shops.

He said: “It’s still a vibrant market town – there are people who don’t think it is because the shops have changed from what they used to be.

“When empty shops come up they are almost immediately snapped up.”