The Grimsey Review 2
Published in 2018, the second Grimsey Review builds on the first, and reflects on the progress made since then. It remains essential reading for anybody interested or involved in transforming high streets and town centres. Based on a review of evidence, data, and best practice case studies, the report offers 25 recommendations for transforming high streets and town centres, which can be grouped into four overall key findings: transforming places into community hubs; strong leadership and vision; establishing place distinction and unique heritage; and the need for support from an independent body.
Published in 2018, the second Grimsey Review reflects - and builds on – the first 2013 review, “...to see what has changed since then, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, where we are today and what we should do now to improve our high streets and town centres” (p. 4). Based on a review of evidence, data, and best practice case studies, the report offers 25 recommendations for transforming high streets and town centres, which can be grouped into four overall key findings, as summarised below. It also identifies several barriers to achieving future transformation of our high streets, including an ‘archaic’ business rates system, complex layers of local government, and financing challenges.
Four key findings
1. Transforming places into community hubs
Given humans are social animals, and in order to respond to wider structural and consumer behaviour changes, the authors call for a move beyond a mono-functional focus on shopping, to embedding the idea of high streets and town centres as multi-functional community hubs within any plans. They envisage high streets as "gathering points for whole communities, which also offer a great experience facilitated by technology and incorporating health, entertainment, education, leisure, business/office space and shops at the heart of a thriving community hub...” (p.4).
2. Strong leadership and vision
The report urges local authorities and place leaders to collaboratively create longer-term visions which take into account, not only the economics, but also social benefits of high streets and town centres. Strong place leadership is important to coordinate such visioning and bring about, and monitor, change in localities. As the authors argue, “new thinking, fresh leadership and ambitious initiatives need to be embraced. If we don’t then communities will pay a heavy price and a key part of our national character will be lost. We will no longer be a nation of shopkeepers and Britain will be a lot poorer as a result” (p.10).
3. Place distinction and unique heritage
The report suggests it is important for local authorities and place leaders to carefully consider the unique offer and heritage of a place, in order to enable distinct positioning of high streets and town centres. Diversity should be embraced, local identity preserved, and an experience for all created. As the authors advise, "the curating of a place based on its distinct heritage is multi-dimensional and complex but should feature strongly when developing the 'offer'...” (p.6).
4. An independent body
Finally, the report calls for the sharing of data, evidence, and best practice. Networks and partnership working is encouraged, rather than agencies working in silos. The authors suggest an independent body is needed to provide an evidence base, support place leaders and stakeholders, and offer expert advice. The High Streets Task Force has been created since this report was published, to boost local authority capacity, build place making skills, coordinate place stakeholders and groups, and provide evidence and data, to help revitalise high streets and town centres across England.
For more Grimsey reports:
To read the Grimsey Review 1, please see here.
To read the Build Back Better Covid-19 supplement, please see here.