The conversation needs to move on from reviving retail
Today the Distressed Town Centre Property Taskforce launches its report on the future of the high street. And it’s had quite a bit of coverage.
The report leads with our recommendation that city centres should be designated as infrastructure to open up funding streams. This is great to see: city centre economies should be the most productive parts of the UK economy, and policy needs to intervene where this isn’t the case. Other recommendations around dealing with fragmented ownership and more flexible planning also chime closely with our recommendations.
But the target for these interventions is still too narrow: they appear to be offered up as a solution for reviving retail rather than thinking more widely about improving city centre economies. And even if this wasn’t the intention of the authors, it’s interesting to see that this is the angle taken by the media. The BBC’s piece on last night’s Ten o’Clock News asked how we can get retailers back on the high street of Stockton-on-Tees. This is entirely the wrong question. And it is this narrow focus that is hampering policy efforts to support those high streets that are struggling.
We’ve covered these issues extensively in our recent blog series and report on the future of city centres. But it can be summed up as this: paradoxically, in order to support high streets, policy needs to stop focusing on it. It’s time for the conversation to move on.
Previous blog in the series: The Future for London’s High Streets
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