Future High Streets
Future High Streets is a social enterprise committed to the regeneration of conventional retail-based areas by:
research - exploring new ideas and solutions, collating case studies and publishing best practice
consultancy - applying innovation and best practice by promoting projects that deliver positive change, for developers, investors and local stakeholders
advocacy - writing, speaking, blogging, networking and influencing through social media; and
advisory - helping local authorities and communities prepare town centre strategies that will deliver real change
We work collaboratively with place-making, property and other professionals to fix broken and underperforming town centres as well as planning new destinations.
What is the problem?
Many High Streets need to offer a significantly better experience if they are to prosper. They are not adapting well to the changes all around them to do this; many need restructuring. Most need new investment that they struggle to attract. The internet, shopping centres and retail parks are not going away. Conventional streets are at a disadvantage in terms of parking, business rates, ease of construction and adaptation compared to retail parks, which can offer bigger boxes. Development is no longer the fix it was - and can have unintended consequences anyway.
We have too many shops. We have too little investment. We see too many places which are depressing or reflect poorly on their local community. Services are closing down, shops are vacant and there seems no way, to the local community, to fix it. Too many conventional shop units are inefficient; offering a poor service and part of a underwhelming public realm and overall experience. The local economy suffers; the community’s identity suffers.
Conventional streets are not going to be fixed by more facilities management - events, shop front upgrades, public realm improvements, town teams etc - vital as that is to maintain quality. But that has been the emphasis to date of Government money and effort. Conventional shopping streets need a new or on-going viable purpose and that might be more about living, learning, leisure (food a& beverage), local services or local enterprise than retail. Town centres need to be able to deliver that.
Why streets and where is the opportunity?
Town and city centres primarily comprise conventional shopping streets that make places; places to enjoy, experience, meet and socialise in; places to find local services; places to live and work in; and do stuff - like have coffee and a meal that can’t be replicated over the internet, while collecting the goods from the shop that were ordered over the net. The challenge is to enable conventional places to become desirable places to spend time in - not just shopping but visiting and for working, living, learning and local services.
A central challenge for conventional streets is their inability to adapt to change due to fragmented ownership. Here lies an opportunity to apply asset management solutions, pooling a critical mass of assets to enable the stock to be adapted, the line-up curated and the destination to be marketed.
Town and city centres are accessible places that can accommodate growth in housing; more central area living can benefit the town centre anyway. Housing can be a catalyst to change. Getting the right results for the new housing and at street level (no more boarded up gaps) will be key. We will continue the recently published research and feasibility studies work on Town Centre Investment Management with those local authorities and communities who are already engaged.
What we focus on
Regeneration is a big subject. We focus on developing realistic town centre strategies, good governance, community support, applying asset management solutions and getting these onto all the relevant stakeholder agendas.