The state of the high street has to be one of the hottest topics around at the moment – when you cast to one side Brexit (something which I’m sure we’ll all be glad to do, for a short while at least).

Almost daily news emerges of big retailers falling in to administration or desperately clambering to stave it off.

It is clearly an issue recognised at the very highest levels of Government given the chancellor’s £675 million Future High Streets Fund unveiled in the Autumn Budget.

Whether that is enough to make the high street “fit for the future” is a debate in itself, but it is clear something drastic is needed to ensure our high streets, towns and city centres, not just survive but thrive as our lives, and shopping habits, become more digital focused.

But we must all keep in mind how important the high street is – in terms of jobs, the impact on the local economy, and, just as important, creating the very fabric of what makes Cumbria a great place to live.

So, it is great to see hear what his happening around the county and the positive action being taken.

Ambitious plans are being driven forward to reinvigorate Barrow’s town centre. 

And while efforts to lobby Marks and Spencer to keep the store open should be commended, it is difficult to see company bosses reverse their decision. But if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Carlisle city centre has managed to dodge a few bullets when it comes to store closures.

There was good news this week, when it emerged the city’s HMV store – along with the store in Workington – would remain open following the takeover of the troubled music chain by Sunrise Records.

HMV’s resurrection was needed because it hadn’t moved with consumer trends. Reading the quotes from Sunrise Record’s owner, it looks as if he will be dragging it into the modern age.

There was a huge collective sigh of relief when the city’s House of Fraser was saved from closure following the takeover by Sports Direct.

Its disappearance would have been a significant blow to the city’s retail vibrancy and left a marquee building vacant – itself a stark symbol of the city centre’s general health.

There is huge dark cloud sitting over Debenhams however, which could close as many as 20 stores this year as it struggles to balance the books. Time will tell if its stores in Carlisle, Workington and Barrow will be among them.

Let’s hope they survive, just as New Look did in Carlisle in despite its owner’s financial turmoil.

Meanwhile, Whitehaven’s BrightHouse store is to close as part of a rent-to-own retailer’s nationwide restructuring, while stores in Carlisle, Workington and Barrow escaped.

Many will find is surprising that Kendal, one of the more affluent towns in the county, well-visited by local and tourists alike, has also suffered.

The much lauded £200 million K Village shopping centre proved a disaster and is now to get a new lease of life as a Travelodge Hotel – a development that will certainly help with footfall.

Then there’s been the slow demise of the Westmorland Shopping Centre as business close or relocate. It is a sad sight, although news on steps to reinvigorate it are expected soon. And it is a case of watch this space after in-Cumbria became aware of one independent store that could be closing soon.

It was as concerning as it was upsetting to see the town’s Evans Cycles store shut given its position in a county revered as one of the UK’s best road and mountain biking destinations.

Footfall may have been the death knell for it, along with fierce online competition, but its closure is a huge shame nonetheless, particularly for an avid cycler like myself.

Conversely, it was interesting to see an independent will be shutting its doors in Workington this weekend because it is too busy. Cherry Tree Fashions’ owner wants to “get some life back”.

All of this comes together to create a kind of Darwinian “survival of the fittest” picture for the high street.

Of course, retailers come and go and while the focus is primarily on the future of the big chains, I should recognise the smaller and independently run shops that help bring diversity and vibrancy to or town and city centres.

In many cases they bring the added sparkle. Their role is crucial.

But it is clear that while retailers individually have to adapt, they also need to work together. Are Business Improvement Districts the answer? It is a case of time will tell.

But it is clear that businesses need to work together to ensure our high streets offer a unique experience to customers that is better and more fulfilling than a few flicks on a phone or tablet.

There is without question a need for retailers to have a physical presence, but it has to be earned. 

Only then, mixed with other food and drink and cultural establishments, along with quality accommodation (both permanent and for visitors), will we have the sustainable high streets, town and city centres, we all crave.