Grimsey Review COVID-19 Supplement Report: Build Back Better

Building on the Grimsey 1 and Grimsey 2 reviews, the ‘Build Back Better’ Covid-19 report, produced by Bill Grimsey and team, provides a comprehensive exploration of how town centres and high streets can transform in order to thrive post-Covid19. Alongside a series of insightful best-practice examples, the report stresses the importance of local communities and leadership, community hubs, attractive and accessible public realm, and multi-functionality.

Date added 25 June 2020
Last updated 2 July 2020

Building on the Grimsey 1 and Grimsey 2 reviews, the ‘Build Back Better’ Covid-19 supplement report, produced by Bill Grimsey and team, provides a comprehensive and empowering exploration of how town centres and high streets can transform in order to thrive in a post-Covid19 environment. It also includes a series of insightful best practice case study examples throughout to bring the 27 key recommendations to life. The ideas contained within it are very much in line with the remit of the High Streets Task Force, which focuses on boosting local authority capacity; building place making skills; enhancing coordination; and delivering intelligence and data directly to high streets and town centres. And we welcome this independent, high-quality review which gives us lots of evidence and examples to support our approach, as well as highlighting some important new challenges to consider.

Click here to read the full Build Back Better report [link to external site]

Some headline recommendations to ‘build back better’:

Local community and leadership

During the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen people relying more than ever on their local centres. In building back better, the report therefore highlights the importance of shifting power away from central government to local communities, to enable a wider range of stakeholders to shape the future of their high streets and town centres, as well as developing and rewarding a ‘new breed of collaborative leaders’. As the authors suggest, we need to see “a massive shift in power away from central government to local communities and a renewed focus on localism. Local people must be empowered to redesign their own high streets and have a say on the businesses, services and amenities that occupy it...” (p.3).

Experience and community hubs

The report suggests COVID-19 has accelerated a cultural shift around what people want to see from their high streets and town centres, which was underway before the pandemic, such as the desire for experiences over ‘stuff’, and concerns over societal issues like sustainability. As the report observes, the pandemic has therefore “paved the way for a post retail landscape to emerge” (p.4), whereby “we’ve spent an enormous amount of energy over the last decade trying to work out how to keep an outdated model on life-support. It’s time we expended that same energy and commitment on looking to the future” (p. 21). To build back better in the future, the authors subsequently urge us to see our high streets and town centres as being about more than just retail; instead offering ‘community hubs’ which provide “health, education, culture, housing, leisure, art and crafts, along with some shops” (p.4).

Design places for people, not cars

For centres to thrive post-Covid19, the report brings attention to the importance of accessible greenspace for local communities. We’ve also seen people in towns and cities across the world undertake tactical urbanism interventions to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians by taking space away from cars. Building on these actions, the report further encourages the designing of places for people and not cars, to ensure there is more attractive and accessible public realm. As the authors argue, “our towns and cities must no longer be designed solely around the car as people learn to appreciate the benefit of open spaces” (p.11). The ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ concept (p.8), where people should be able to access to the services they need in a short walk, should help in rethinking our centres in this way.

For more related resources:

To read the Grimsey 1 Review see here

To read the Grimsey 2 Review see here

To read the High Street Report see here

To read the High Street 2030: Achieving Change Report see here  

To read the IPM’s Multifunctional Centres Report see here.

To learn more about tactical urbanism during the COVID-19 pandemic see here.