This project looked at how London’s local communities can play an active role in the stewardship and governance of their high streets and town centres to make them more resilient and sustainable.
High streets and town centres are places of work and economic activity, but also of civic pride and community – they are often the focal points of our neighbourhoods. People care deeply about their neighbourhoods, as we saw in the early days of lockdown, but all too often have found their opportunities to influence them limited.
As the city recovers from the coronavirus crisis, communities will need to play their part in shaping its future. In a time of profound change in the economic geography of the city, what role do we want our high streets and town centres to fulfil? The retail-dominated model of old was struggling even before the crisis, and with coronavirus seemingly accelerating this trend, we need to imagine different possibilities for our local centres.
Building on previous work which explored the potential of ‘Community Improvement Districts’ as a mechanism to enable genuine local decision making, this project explored how such ideas could be implemented in practice.
Through a combination of literature, case studies, quantitative data analysis and engagement with key stakeholders such as town centre partnerships, community groups, local and central government and Business Improvement Districts, this project considered questions including:
- How are town centres and high streets being reshaped in the age of coronavirus?
- What other functions and services could town centres support, beyond retail?
- What role should communities play in ownership and stewardship of town centres?
- What models of governance, new and existing, are best placed to shape town centres in a truly inclusive way?