City centres play a fundamental role in the economies of UK cities. Businesses gain from the proximity, or agglomeration, that city centres offer through sharing infrastructure, the ability to recruit from a larger labour pool and the ability to share ideas and information, known as ‘knowledge spillovers’.
But the performance of the UK’s city centre economies has been variable. On average, larger cities have seen their city centres become more important and claim a larger proportion of jobs. Meanwhile medium and small sized cities have overall experienced the opposite trend, with private sector jobs moving away from the city centre, increasingly locating outside the centre.
This varying performance provides very different policy challenges. The policy approach in more poorly performing city centre economies should be to focus on increasing the economic scale of the city centre, improving the attractiveness of the city centre as a place to do business and drawing in any office based business in the first instance. Meanwhile for successful cities, policy should focus on continuing to promote the city centre as a place to do business by reducing the costs associated with a thriving city centre, such as high office costs and congestion.
The purpose of this report is to bring together case studies of policies from around the world that have succeeded in revitalising the economy of a city through a focus on the attractiveness of the city for people and businesses. It groups these policies into five main categories:
- Relocating employment to the city centre where possible, for example in Coventry and Bradford
- Creating an attractive and functional physical environment, for example in Manchester and Croydon
- Providing good transport and infrastructure, for example in Montpellier and Oldham
- Attracting firms through incentives to stimulate business activity, for example in Dallas and Oklahoma
- Making better use of temporary space – for example in Christchurch and Masan
While it is important to note that any policy intervention is likely to require a combination of a number of the policy areas above, the case studies provide practical examples of approaches that cities have adopted to improve the attractiveness of the city centres as a place to do business.