The most recent design guide specifically for the City of Durham is now almost half a century old and pre-dates the advent of out-of-town shopping centres (the Metrocentre opened in 1986) and e-commerce sites (Amazon and eBay both launched 1n 1995). Nevertheless The design of shop fronts within the historic centre of Durham contains much useful advice. The Seaham Shopfront Design Guide dates from November 2021 and is right up-to-date with its references to the County Durham Plan and the NPPF. However it is tailored for Seaham, but parallels can be drawn for Durham.
The form and design of shop fronts can influence the character and quality of shopping areas both in city centres and within village streets. In city centres shops compete with each other to provide commodities and services which we require. Shopkeepers need to make their whereabouts known and to display their merchandise. All this helps to create the busy atmosphere that we associate with town centres. Where shops exist in the historic areas of cities we must still recognise these commercial requirements but at the same time we must continue to care for and respect the architectural heritage that has been handed down to us.
(From the introduction to The design of shop fronts within the historic centre of Durham – 1975)
With increasing competition from online and out-of-town outlets it is important that the traditional town centre should be attractive and project an image of quality. Seaham has a good deal of special architectural and historical interest and an emphasis on good quality design will encourage investment and spend which will benefit all traders in the town.
A shopfront is the first point of contact between a business and the public, a well-designed shopfront will entice customers inside. Shopfronts contribute to an immediate impression and can create a lasting image of a place. High quality, well maintained shopfronts make a town feel more welcoming to locals and visitors.
(From the introduction to the Seaham Shopfront Design Guide – 2021)