Written evidence from Centre for Cities: High streets and town centres in 2030

This 2019 resource from Centre for Cities provides written evidence submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the future of high streets and town centres. Although written before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it still provides useful insights into some of the key opportunities and challenges facing our high streets, as well as providing recommendations around how they can be revitalised.

Date added 6 September 2021
Last updated 6 September 2021

This resource from Centre for Cities provides written evidence for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the future of high streets and town centres. Although written before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it still provides useful insights into some of the key opportunities and challenges facing our high streets, as well as providing several recommendations around how they can be revitalised.

Based on analysis of the 63 largest urban areas in the UK, the resource covers a range of challenges for our high streets and town centres, including the ability to attract 'high skilled’ exporting businesses in the local economy, empty shops, and the proportion of commercial space given to retail. For example, the resource identifies that the cities analysed have varying proportions of office, retail, and other commercial space, which can impact and signal the strength of the wider local economy. It outlines how 'weaker’ centres, such as Blackpool, have a larger proportion of space given to retail, than those with 'stronger’ economies such as Manchester, which is more multifunctional in nature.

To address such challenges and to become more sustainable and attractive, the Centre for Cities ultimately argues that high streets reflect the health of local economies more widely, and so through encouraging growth in high skilled exporting businesses, they can become more attractive and resilient. The resource states that 'policy to support high street services should come from policy to support the local economy more broadly’ (p. 3). To help achieve this, the resource provides several key recommendations, as summarised below.

Some key recommendations

To revive 'weaker’ centres:

  • It is important to upskill the local population, in order to be attractive to 'high knowledge firms’ and ensure the economic success of the place.
  • Centres need to think beyond retail to fill empty spaces, to ensure multifunctionality through providing services such as libraries, leisure opportunities, playgrounds etc.

To sustain 'strong’ centres:

  • Policy to help to sustain centres needs to be mindful of their own specific challenges and needs.
  • Local stakeholders should maintain some control over planning and use of space in centres.
  • Adequate public transport is needed to link people to jobs, shops, and services, and to tackle issues around the environment and congestion.