EATING out is alive and well in Tunbridge Wells as new data shows that there has been an increase in the number of pubs and bars in the town, which has helped boost the local economy.
According to data from Ordnance Survey, the number of places to eat in the town had risen by 17 per cent in March this year, compared to two years ago, when the country was preparing to be locked down as the Covid crisis took hold.
The national data, which has been analysed by the BBC website to give a local breakdown, shows a change in the shape of high streets across Britain.
The figures show that Tunbridge Wells is bucking the national trend, as hospitality has seen just a four per cent increase across Great Britain.
Analysis of the data shows that in March 2020 there were 95 eating and drinking businesses in Tunbridge Wells, but this rose to 111 in March 2022 – an increase of 17 per cent.
Much of the rise is down to new pubs and bars, of which there has been a 48 per cent increase according to the BBC analysis, although the number of restaurants has actually fallen by seven per cent.
Retail in Tunbridge Wells has also increased, despite the loss of a number of big names over the last two years, including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.
Although the increase in new stores is just two per cent according to the data, three more shop openings have brought the total of retail outlets in the town centre to 199.
Meanwhile, there has been a two per cent decline in retail across the rest of the country, with 9,300 fewer retail outlets in March 2022 than March 2020.
The data also shows an increase in fast food venues in Tunbridge Wells of 41 per cent, including a 17.6 per cent rise in the number of fish and chip shops.
Other changes to the town centre recorded by the Ordnance Survey data are not so positive, with a 17.4 per cent reduction in the number of banks, compared to an 8.1 per cent reduction nationally.
There was, however a 4.5 per cent increase in beauty services in Tunbridge Wells in 2022 compared to 2020 and an increase in tattoo and piercing studios of 16.7 per cent.
The opening of Lidl in February 2021 next to Homebase in the Linden Park Road retail complex has also seen the town enjoy a 14.3 per cent increase in new supermarkets, while nationally they have risen by just 2.5 per cent.