Not every high street needs an independent
vegan café; what it needs is strong leadership
British high streets are at a turning point. Lessons learned
in recent years show that we need greater innovation, faster decision-making,
and bolder steps from planners and councils to revitalise our high streets. During
the first of six London First roundtables in the What’s in Store:
Transforming Our High Streets series – which aims to identify the top
priorities for London – we discussed issues for developing mixed-use town
centres and how these might be overcome.
What makes a good
Firstly, it’s clear that one size does not fit all. People
no longer need to go to a high street, they must be made to want to go to a
high street. It must provide an experience that consumers will remember. This
gives councils licence to try, and more importantly to fail, in order to get
the right mix on their streets.
Not every high street needs an independent vegan café, in
the same way that not every high street needs a gaming arcade. What every high
street does need is to find its own format that directly appeals to consumers
in its surrounding area – and one that keeps it busy at (almost) all times of
the day. A mixture of uses, a mixture of cultures, and a mixture of
independents and more well-known brands are all key to creating a successful
high street for the long-term future.
In theory, more people equal more footfall, and more
footfall equals more sales. But more people living and sleeping near a busy
high street mean more chance of noise complaints and more chance of stifled
development plans. The Government's goal of 300,000 more homes per year means
that almost every redevelopment plan will involve new residential units.
Planners must take care to ensure that the overall scheme – often involving an
outside of the 9-to-5 economy – does not interfere with these new residents.
So how are we going
to get there?
The simple answer is strong leadership. More than any time
before, the successful execution of a broad and ambitious development plan
relies on those at the top. This includes the delegation of tasks to the
appropriate people or groups. The council won’t have the expertise necessary to
do most of the work. It should act as the facilitator, bringing in those who
are experts in their field; those who will do the best job. There should be
appropriate consultation and engagement with the local community – businesses,
residents, and stakeholder groups.
Finally, more needs to be done to speed up the process of
development approval in town centres and enable flexibility in those proposals.
Planning policy and licensing frameworks must be improved to give councils the
opportunity to rejuvenate high streets and bring in bold new ideas and
Which high streets
should investors be focused on?
Retail Resilience, a recent research report from CBRE, has
identified the best and worst performing areas across the UK. By analysing a
range of metrics, CBRE has identified which cities, asset types and retail
sectors are, and will continue to remain, resilient during the challenging
retail climate. For further information on the report, please do contact me.
London First is a business campaigning group with a mission to make London the best city in the world to do business. For further information on the What’s in Store: Transforming Our High Streets roundtable series, Please contact Sarah Bevan or Matthew Hill for further information.