Sara Ford, who runs FRESH. Ely and 4D Dance, shares her thoughts on the future of Ely High Street.

It’s no secret that our lovely city centre is changing.

It feels, at the moment, as if a shop or business closes down each week.

It’s a shame to see so many empty properties on the high street, some of which have been sitting vacant for months… possibly over a year.

The truth of the matter is that not only have shopping habits changed, with people opting for online orders or second hand items.

But, put this together with extortionate rental prices and unaffordable business rates, you would be hard pressed to find an independent, local business owner who can realistically open up a shop on the high street nowadays.

So what’s the solution? In my opinion, there are a few things that could work in the empty spaces.

A beautiful co-working space for people to work remotely but with a nice community feel.

There would be a kitchen on site for people to make their own teas and coffees, great Wi-Fi, full desks and also relaxed sofa areas.

Plus some large meeting rooms for hire. We don’t have anything like it and with the rise in people working from home since COVID these types of offices are popping up everywhere.

Someone on Facebook suggested an indoor market type set up which I think would be GREAT!

Our market is one of the best things we have in Ely and imagine if this could be continued throughout the week.

A larger unit would be needed but the cost of rent would be shared between the stall holders, making it far more affordable for small businesses.

On the topic of indoor markets, what about an indoor foodhall?

The main focus would be fresh fruit and vegetables available daily (I’m looking at you, Fountain Fresh), then add in some independent street food vendors and a few tables and chairs…

It’s the perfect social space for the community. Another possibility would be an art/performance/gallery/space…

But I haven’t thought as much into this one. I just think it would compliment the town well. Of course, there are huge considerations for all. 

I’m just here to provide some inspiration to our budding entrepreneurs of Ely.

I cannot stress enough that I would be jumping on these myself if I had the time.