The Portas Review highlighted the challenges that face our high streets and town centres. With shopping habits changing, high streets need to evolve – to build on their strengths and offer a viable and exciting alternative to out-of-town and internet shopping. High streets and town centres that are fit for the 21st century need to offer a different mix of retail, services and facilities, a different style of interaction, and a variety of experiences that are about more than shopping.
Town centres and high streets have buildings and roads, but the spaces in-between are what hold them together as a place – the open spaces, streets, squares, green spaces and the network of pavements and pedestrian thoroughfares that knit them together. All too often, these spaces are used as no more than that – thoroughfares – and we start to forget that they can be so much more.
This document is aimed at anyone working to improve their high street, town centre or retail area, whether you are a neighbourhood partnership, a group of businesses, a private landowner or a local authority. Its goal is to remind us of the potential of these urban spaces, and how, with some imagination and creative thought, they can add identity to a place to help combat clone town syndrome, and help make the local high street a destination of choice.
The section at the back of this document aims to signpost some of the key documents, guidance, tools and sources of support that you may find helpful in thinking about how best to design or use the urban spaces in your area.