A common complaint about Reading on social media is about the 'death of the high street'. 

The archetypal high street in Reading is Broad Street, which is home to dozens of stores, a number of cafes and chain bakeries. 

But increasingly neighbours are complaining about the proliferation of phone and vape shops in the 

So two members of The Reading Chronicle team went out to speak to people to ask them whether they felt the same. 

Richard Bennett, the chair of Reading Civic Society, spoke in reaction to a Chronicle article about the death of shopping in the town centre, where a couple lamented the decline of department store shopping.

Mr Bennett, 75, from Baker Street said: "If people say they only shop in department stores, so they are contributing to the death of the high street. 

"Department stores don't do small shops, and that is the problem. So people have go to use it or lose it, in our view.

"People say 'where are all the hardware stores?' well people go online to buy those products, that's the trouble.

Reading Chronicle: Richard Bennett, 75, from Baker Street, chair of Reading Civic Society.Richard Bennett, 75, from Baker Street, chair of Reading Civic Society. (Image: NQ staff)

"I was just walking down Broad Steet, counting the number of empty shops, and there aren't that may, there are just the odd ones. And where they are closed, they don't look unreasonable.

"I think the protesters protest too much."

However, he did say waste collection for shops could be better to improve the appearance of the town centre. 

Long time residents of Reading and best friends Gloria, Dee and Teresa said that there is now nowhere for them to go to find clothes for people of their age in the town centre.

“There used to be loads of dress shops for people like us,” Gloria said. “Now we only really have places like John Lewis and Marks and Spencer to shop at. There’s nothing really anymore for people aged 50 plus. The types of stores in The Oracle just aren’t the types of places that I would ever go to.”

“Yes, there isn’t much for us oldies,” Dee said. “We really miss Debenhams, we used to go there quite a lot when we’d go out shopping. It was also such a shame when House of Fraser went. Places like C and A were brilliant but that went a long time ago.

“They should really bring some of these shops back, it’s a real shame that the shopping experience in Reading has changed so much, especially for people our age who now have nowhere to go.”

Teresa said “There’s now just so many cafes, nail bars, and telephone shops. Why are there so many of them? Reading as really lost it in my opinion. It really isn’t nice to go on Broad Street anymore. I had a friend come down the other day who said that she would live here.”

Shirene Wright 31, who has been living in Reading for a month said: "I've been quite busy here but today is my first day really exploring. 

"I've seen quite a few vape shops, but I don't think it's just a Reading issue, in general it just seems that there are tobacco and vape shops everywhere really." 

Reading Chronicle: Shirene Wright, 31, from South Africa, who has recently moved to Reading.Shirene Wright, 31, from South Africa, who has recently moved to Reading. (Image: NQ staff)

She has recently migrated to the town from Durban, South Africa. 

Shirene said: "So it's a different life here, you leave your home and you come back and you know your home is going to be safe, or you leave and you know you are going to be safe, you're going to make it back alive.

"Here it's been quite an adjustment to be so free." 

Malcolm and Celia Geater, who live in Emmer Green, said that Reading is very different from how it used to be when they were younger.

“We’ve lived in Reading all our lives, and I went to Kendrick school,” Mrs Geater said. “Broad Street to us is not really Broad Street anymore.”

“You used to be able to come down here and meet people, but you don’t see anyone you know anymore,” Mr Geater said. “We used to go to Regent Café where you could get the best ice cream since after the war. All of the teenagers used to hang out there.”

Reading Chronicle: Malcolm and Cecilia Geater, both 89, from Lyefield Court, Emmer Green.Malcolm and Cecilia Geater, both 89, from Lyefield Court, Emmer Green. (Image: NQ staff)

Mrs Geater said “Reading was smaller I suppose in those days, you really knew people. To us it just isn’t Reading anymore, it’s just a place.”

Rosemarie Hitchman, 71 retired from Burghfield said: "The Oracle I don't think is for everybody's day-to-day shopping, it's a certain type of person who go in there."

Dianne Davis, 67, also retired from Tilehurst said: "There are too many shops closing. 

"There's too many cafes."

Rosemarie said the clothes shops are not appropriate for her any more. She said: "We used to go to Bon Marche, Quality Seconds, all of those sorts of places are all closed.

"It's not for our age, it's all for the younger people now. 

"I think they're just pricing the town centre out, there won't be a town centre soon."