04 Jan 2022
Professor Cathy Parker, IPM Co-Chair and Research Lead for the High Streets Task Force, appeared on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours on 3rd January 2022, marking 10 years since the Portas Pilots and looking at the topic of ‘High Street Revival’.
Speaking with host Sam Fenwick to close the 40 min special episode, Cathy reflected on the trends that are driving change in town centres. In a wide ranging discussion, Cathy touches on the economics of town centres, looking at Stockton as a case study and its number of hair and beauty businesses and future plans, before moving on to how high streets are transitioning their offers.
“Towns have been full of shops, and the idea that people drive, mostly, and park and shop is not what town centres are about any more.”
Reflecting on the work of the High Streets Task Force, Cathy spoke about how towns are now focused on a much broader range of issues, including the local environment and liveability. As recently as 2019, she said, this wasn’t case, even if people were aware of the challenges such as air quality, congestion, and the need for more sustainable centres.
But, she said, this changed as many towns are now being encouraged to be more ambitious about the scope of their transformation and ambitions.
“Partly because of covid (many towns) have had a go at pop up parks, more cycling and walking routes into town and on the whole these have been welcomed by people. But there’s also a much clearer message from government about high streets and town centres that have a massive role to play in net zero.”
Cathy and Sam spoke about the strong government investment in UK high streets, as well as a change of focus, which is to be welcomed. Discussing the idea of levelling up, Cathy noted how important it is for people to feel proud of where they live, and that investing to achieve this is vital.
Although acknowledging that there is no such thing as a template for future high street success, Cathy did recognise the need for “more independent businesses in them and being focused more on the needs of communities rather than just doing deals with developers and your town becoming whatever they made it.”
You can listen to the You and Yours special, High Street Revival, on BBC Sounds.
Other guests include Mary Portas and a range of contributors such as vox pops on real high streets.