Improving the vitality and viability of the UK high street by 2020: Identifying priorities and a framework for action

High streets and town centres in the UK are facing significant challenges around their vitality and viability. This article presents the top ‘25 priorities for vitality and viability’ - found in the IPM’s High Street UK 2020 project - which local place stakeholders can influence to enhance centre performance.

Date added 5 February 2020
Last updated 22 May 2020

UK high streets and town centres are facing a period of turbulent change. However, academic knowledge about their performance is often fragmented and inaccessible to local place leaders. The High Street UK 2020 (HSUK2020) project - discussed in this article - addressed these concerns by bringing academic knowledge directly to UK high streets to improve their vitality and viability. The project was conducted in 2014 and involved three main stages. First, the Institute of Place Management (IPM) conducted a review of academic literature around retail and high streets, and identified over 150 factors impacting centre vitality and viability. Second, these factors were discussed with place stakeholders from 10 towns across the UK, who were project partners. Through these discussions a further 50 factors were identified, leading to 201 factors in total. Third, to ensure findings were useful for local place leaders in practice, a panel of place experts were asked to rank these 201 factors: first, based on how much influence each factor has on vitality and viability; and second, how much control local place stakeholders have over each factor. Based on this ranking process, each of the 201 factors were placed in one of four categories: Forget it (low influence; low control), Live with it (high influence; low control), Not worth it (low influence; high control), and Get on with it (high influence; high control). The paper advises local leaders to focus on influencing those factors - termed the ‘25 priorities for vitality and viability’ - found in the Get on with it box, since these have the highest influence on vitality and viability and are most controllable locally. Examples of the ‘25 priorities’ include activity hours, appearance, walkability, entertainment and leisure, and networks and partnerships; and descriptions of each of these 25 priorities are included in the article.