Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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High streets thrive by community-led renewal

Report shows importance of community-led renewal in giving new life to high streets.

High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis yesterday (23 October) launched a new report at the High Street ‘World Café’ of Ideas forum.

The 1-day event brought together Portas Pilots, Town Teams, retailers, market traders, council and business leaders to discuss how to inject life into the high street through community-led initiatives that will support local business and attract shoppers.

Delivering the key note speech, Mr Lewis said high streets were changing and that the government was committed to helping communities adapt to this change. He said local authorities and businesses and those who work on the ground had to get involved as they were best placed to know what could make their high street thrive. He called on them to harness the package of measures the government has put in place including community-based initiatives to inject new life into their high streets.

The new High Streets Minister praised the work that was already taking place by Town Teams in many communities and said any area could pick up some of the tried and tested ideas launched in the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM)’s report ‘High Street Renewal Award 2013’ and adapt it to their own circumstances.

The report highlights the work of 7 towns benefitting from the government’s million pound High Street Renewal Award and shows that not only are they having an immediate impact in reviving the fortunes of their high streets, they are also laying the foundations for sustainable prosperity over the long term.

High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis said:

This government has put in place a wide range of measures to help high streets thrive. This includes tripling the total business rates discounts for small shops to £900 million, cutting their National Insurance and corporation tax, simplifying the planning system and scrapping unfair rules around parking charges.

Today’s report shows that when local civic and business leaders take action they can change the fortunes of their high street. Town teams are fizzing with ideas on how to make high streets thrive from free parking and pop up shops, to street café grants and attractions that encourage foot fall.

Britain’s shopping culture is changing rapidly - but with savvy investment and strong local leadership then our high streets will remain the backbones of our communities for decades to come. Flexibility, imagination and a willingness to adapt are all hallmarks of the British entrepreneurial spirit.

The minister said that events such as the World Café event were important so communities could come together to share what works well. They know what makes their high street unique and can capitalise on those retail strengths to build a sense of loyalty and pride among locals that will encourage them to do more than use their laptops to shop.

Martin Blackwell, CEO, Association of Town and City Management said:

This is truly an exciting time for the beloved institution that is the UK high street. Changes in consumer behaviour, technological advances, and financial constraints have all provided difficult challenges for town and city centres to overcome; but the future is bright, because now, more than ever before, people are working in partnership to find solutions that will create the vibrant and safe high streets of the future.

The High Street Renewal Award is a clear example of this progress. The Association of Town and City Management applauds DCLG for recognising the importance of rewarding those with exciting and ambitious plans, and we must congratulate the winners for their inspiration and their hard work in bringing these projects together. Throughout the country, Business Improvement Districts, Town Centre Managers, Portas Pilots, Town Teams, and Community Interest Companies are helping to shape local and regional agendas. The ability of these organisations to continue to do this is an absolute must if the current momentum is to reach its full potential.

Find out what else the government is doing to support and grow the UK economy

Further information

Rotherham’s efforts have seen 44 new shops open, reducing the number of boarded up shops, increasing footfall and signing up 100 shops to their local loyalty card scheme. Most importantly of all, shopper satisfaction has soared. Launched in July 2010, the ‘Shop Local’ brand aims to reinforce the message that shopping local equates to value for money, a unique offer, quality goods and services which all provide a boost to the local economy and employment. So far 16,000 Rotherham residents have registered for a card.

Altrincham is Trafford’s largest town with an historic Charter Market. It is also well known for a wide variety of high quality specialist and contemporary high street retailers, a well established market and good office accommodation, a contemporary offer within a heritage setting. The town also supports lowering parking charges. Council charges are now 10p per hour and Altrincham Forward is working with private owners on a town centre car parking strategy including free car parking from Tesco and reduced charging elsewhere. Average monthly parking in council car parks was 58% higher in the last 12 months than prior to the reduction of fees. The private Stamford Quarter Car Park (£1 per hour) usage increased by 9.6% for the period April to June compared to the previous year.

In August 2011, Maritime Ipswich, a weekend festival centred on the Waterfront was reinstated after a gap of several years attracting over 55,000 visitors. In August 2012, Ipswich Central combined this success with growing town-wide identification with the Waterfront with a fortnight ‘Celebrate Ipswich’ event boosting footfall and spend by 10%. In September 2012, Ipswich planning committee granted planning permission to change the use of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre to a multiplex cinema with around 10 supporting leisure and restaurant units.

Gloucester’s ‘Meet and Greet’ scheme is boosting footfall in the gate streets, increasing dwell time and spending in the city centre and helping to promote Gloucester as a top tourist destination. Supported by new events like BIG Gloucester History Festival, Gloucester Day celebrations, the History Week talks and annual Heritage Open Day events, the town has attracted thousands of visitors with many events selling out. Gloucester now hosts a variety of markets to support the local economy, adding a colourful vibrancy to the public spaces and recapturing the essence of the historic market influence in Gloucester dating back to ancient times. An open air market and car boot sale occupies the multi-use purpose built site at Hempsted Meadow, the Cherry and White Market on Fridays and Saturdays and a very successful Farmers Market on Gloucester Cross every Friday. In addition to this, there is a covered market - Eastgate Indoor Market - situated in the heart of the city. There will also be 4 night markets which take place from October to Christmas.

Old Northam Road, Southampton: The physical changes that have happened as a result of the regeneration and development of Northam Road have transformed the area. The new shop frontages have improved the overall look and appeal, while retaining the character, heritage and individuality of the area, and at the same time harnessing the enthusiasm and energy of the community to come together. It has reignited a sense of pride and ownership within a loyal community who have now created a worthy destination for any of the 1.2 million visitors passing through Southampton docks. Northam Road is now able to actively promote itself as a tourist destination for the 1.2 million cruise passengers. The hanging baskets initiative led to residents and businesses joining in by investing in their own displays, encouraging a further sense of ownership and pride in the community. Indications predict that with radically improved occupancy rates, the remaining few retail units will be insufficient to meet demand and Northam Road will be a viable proposition for future development.

Herne Hill forum: the local council agreed to run a pilot programme allowing local traders and the community to manage the area. This included licensing and planning issues, such as outdoor tables and chairs, shop fronts and even included having a ‘public piano’ in the station underpass. A new street market now hosts on a weekly basis and is succeeding in attracting more footfall to the area and supporting local traders. There are regular events hosted including Halloween parties, Herne Hill Free film festival, the Herne Hill FOLD, the Festival of Local Diversity, and Christmas events, which create a buzz and vibrancy that has been missing for several years, and brings together a community of residents, businesses and new visitors, to enjoy this new space.

Market Rasen: Market Rasen set up an award winning market which attracts 500-600 visitors per event and has lead to increased sales for shops and businesses. There has been a 60% reduction in vacant commercial premises with lots of interest in the 6 remaining.  The high street has had a facelift with painting and tidy-up funded by the traders. The town also host business events and ‘The Big Breakfast’ attracted over 60 businesses. They are opening a community food shop, showcasing local produce and the ‘Big Corner Shop’ with retail incubation space for local business.

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