Town centres in 2030
We don’t know too much about what the year 2030 will bring (we can do many things here at Buy-From Britain, but seeing into the future isn’t one of them), we have however made a prediction into what high streets and town centres might look like in eleven years’ time.
Bear with us, there is a reason to this; a lot of what we believe the future holds builds on the work we currently do – building a community vibe in high streets, shopping centres and town centres.
We make no secret of the fact that we believe these can be diverse, exciting community spaces for use by everyone.
In fact, the House of Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee have created a report which contains some of what we think. You can check out their full report on the 2030 vision here. However, if you don’t have time to read all 80 pages, just read our version here instead.
William Grimsey, wrote last year in a review of town centres that “the 21st century town is about an activity-based community gathering space”.
The report also spoke about the need for towns to create their own identity based on local characteristics; their history, heritage and culture. This is something we embrace in our work with Lock29 – telling the stories of the area and sharing its fascinating past.
Trafford Council have encouraged a more compact town centre. This means that consumers do not have to walk as far which encourages spend. The retailers there found this idea worked. Tony Ginty from Marks and Spencer’s said, “town centres cannot rely on retailing like in the past – they need to get the right balance of retail, leisure, hospitality, health, social care, services and residential links”.
Wiltshire Council have said that what brings people into towns is things like “employment, cinemas, parks, libraries, events, festivals, leisure activities and services”. This then of course benefits and complements the retail offering.
Celebrating arts, culture and events creates opportunities for interaction. Collaboration with theatres, libraries and museums can bring these things to life and benefits both the community and these town centre anchors. Stockton Council run a year-round programme of events with the aim of bringing local people and those from outside of the area to the town.
Buy-From works with Castle Quay Shopping Centre in Banbury where we recently organised for the dance festival there to spread out and perform around the town and in the shopping centre. We have supported local CIC Visit Banbury in growing and gaining the use of an empty unit in the centre to transform into a community hub.
We work with St Nicholas Shopping Centre in Sutton who have transformed empty units into a community hub, a sensory garden and a games garden through partnership with local charities.
As a part of our work in Shrewsbury and Banbury we organise workshops to take place in empty retail units, run by local organisations and free of charge for the community to take part in. There are clear benefits to all parties in activities such as this.
Town centres are the original heart of communities. They attract all demographics of people and are a space in which everyone can mix together. Spaces like this are so important, especially to those who may feel otherwise lonely or isolated. London Councils describe how town centres and high streets can provide moments as simple but positive as sharing a short conversation with someone.
Sir John Timpson says “in an internet age where there is less face-to-face communication, humans want places to meet.” Town centres and high streets provide a space for people to gather, relax and connect socially with others. They are important for physical and mental wellbeing.
A couple of examples of towns embracing this are Stockton-on-Tees where the high street has been redesigned to provide a flexible performance space, with sound and lighting in place to enable various events to be held there. Altrincham (who won the 2018 Great British High Street Town Centre Award) have invested in landscaping, street furniture and planting. This creates a space that is pretty, that people want to maintain and care for and a place that people will choose to meet in and visit.
We all know that there are numerous challenges facing high streets now and we at Buy-From firmly believe that if we are open to adapting and embrace the potential of town centres, shopping centres and high streets – they can thrive once again. The future holds many unknowns with the increasing developments of technology including virtual reality, robots, drones etc. which is why getting ahead now is even more important.
In 2030 high streets can be vibrant spaces with elements of retail, leisure, arts, culture and history. They can be a hub of activity and social interaction with the local community at the heart of the plans.
Every town has its own narrative that can be celebrated, and each town centre can be unique with its own identity. There are so many long-term benefits for everyone in creating town centres which have a diverse, educational, community offering that supports innovation, enterprise and local businesses.