Ditch “clone towns” to save the UK High Street
“Town centres go for a ‘me too’ approach and we end up with people trying to create an open air shopping centre,” Dr Andres Coca-Stefaniak of the University of Greenwich, told the High Streets and town centres in 2030 inquiry yesterday.
The inquiry is examining the future role of the High Street in contributing to the local economy and the health, cohesion and cultural life of the local community and the challenges faced amid changing demographic, technological and other trends in recent decades.
It is also looking at how local areas are planning for the future of their High Streets and town centres and creating the conditions to sustain them in the years ahead, as well as whether councils have the planning, licensing, tax raising and other tools needed to help local areas flourish.
“We need our High Streets and town centres to reclaim their personalities. They are losing their souls by copying eachother and focusing too much on shopping, but you can’t compete with the internet. It’s ridiculous to try,” Dr Andres Coca-Stefaniak said.
He added: “Tourism - the leisure and visitor economy – is the key. We need town centres like Greenwich, York, Perugia (Italy) or Salamanca (Spain), where retail and tourism are blended seamlessly to create attractive places for residents and visitors alike. Heritage, identity and attachment are still valued, getting people’s hearts.”
His current research, he continued, shows a vibrant market can also be a catalyst for revitalising town centres. “They’re often the first chance for young entrepreneurs to test their ideas on a pop-up stall. They meet other traders and share ideas, it gives an area energy. Spain has invested in markets and has seen the benefits.”