News of the closure of Neaversons china and glasswear shop in Byram Street has brought fresh acclaim for its distinctive frontage - and calls for it to be preserved. But, as Prof CEDRIC CULLINGFORD, Professor of Education at Huddersfield University argues, some of the other shop frontages in Huddersfield are much less appealing ...

PEOPLE who design the interior of shops do their best to make them attractive.

They are aware are that it is not just the layout, the special offers or the gimmicks, or even the background music that puts the customer in the right, or preferred, mood but the aesthetics.

But first they have to attract the customers to the shop.

This is where visual appeal disappears and advertising and branding take over.

While we know that the pleasure of shopping should include a complete visual experience, the shops along the high streets have ugly, brash and cheap-looking frontages. They also destroy the houses they inhabit.

This visual illiteracy, this insensitive decor, is a peculiarly English (and in a different way American) phenomenon.

One of the pleasures of town centres, those that are blessed with a blend of old buildings, some even distinguished, is to be able to see the whole streetscape, to appreciate how it looks.

The presence of trees, and the absence of street clutter, make a difference; and of course, so do the scale and shape of the buildings.

In England, it is sometimes impossible to be aware that the buildings that make up a town exist.

There are different colours shrieking brand names, each of the size almost deliberately designed to destroy the natural scale. There is neither any sensitivity to surroundings, nor appreciation of layout.

One of the reasons for this insensitivity is the belief that the brand image is all and that this must be uniform all over the country.

The customer, like Pavlov's dog, is supposed to respond without thought. The result is that every town looks the same.

Worse still, the towns are made to look as if shopping were a mindless, unpleasurable activity.

Perhaps the thinking behind such brash displays of advertising is that each one must stand out, so that the customer's mind can be triggered by the sight of the brand.

The logic of this would be to make each sign so big that it can be seen from anywhere; an odd way to help people find out where they want to go, given the competition.

The result could be billboards so big and brash that all would be obscured.

There are other ways to find a shop one is looking for, like the street plans that are available in some malls. All shops including specialist shops would welcome such information, and this would not be hard to achieve.

Meanwhile, we have a visual landscape that is nasty and ineffective. It is also insulting, not only obliterating the heritage of buildings, but demeaning the people there.

Surely we could treat our high streets and the retail outlets with more respect? Does one really need to go elsewhere to shop?

. To join Huddersfield Civic Society contact Michael Barron, 11 Prestwich Drive, Fixby park, Huddersfield HD2 2NU.