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Last Updated: Monday, 6 June, 2005, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
High streets 'lack individuality'
Shopping mall
Exeter topped the survey
There are four "clone towns" with bland high streets in the West of England, according to new research.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) think tank polled people on the variation and distinctiveness of their local high streets.

Out of a possible score of 60, Weston-super-Mare scored 10; Cheltenham 13; Gloucester 23 and Devizes 24.

A clone town is described by the NEF as having its high street's individuality replaced by global and national chains.

Terry Gilbert, from the Weston Chamber of Commerce, told BBC News: "Weston could always improve but it is not a bad area at all.

I think Devizes offers a very unique shopping experience
Peter Lay
Devizes development partnership

"Ladies tell me they would be enticed into the centre more if there was a larger choice of well-known stores that they are now driving elsewhere to find."

The study looked at what shops and services there were available in town centres and the impact this had on the local economy.

On the border between clone and home town - where the place retains individual character - were Taunton (29 points) and Trowbridge (34). Wellington, Minehead and Wotton Under Edge all scored well and made it into the home town bracket.

Triple whammy

Peter Lay, chairman of the Devizes development partnership, said: "I think Devizes offers a very unique shopping experience and the centre is very different from the centres of other towns and cities.

"Yes there are national retailers in the centre, but the reason they work is their retail offer is a success - they give people what they want."

Exeter topped the NEF survey, which was based on 103 national and 27 London surveys completed by members of the public in communities with between 5,000 and 150,000 residents.

Richard Dennery, city centre manager in Gloucester, said: "Where the footfall is highest, there are higher rents and it is more likely you will find multiples like banks there.

"But if you walk around Gloucester, you will find a lot of independent shops. This is true of most places and is the nature of the beast.

"Gloucester is a unique city."

NEF policy director Andrew Simms said: "Clone stores have a triple whammy on communities: they bleed the local economy of money, destroy the social glue provided by real local shops that holds communities together, and they steal the identity of our towns and cities."

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