Recovery and district centres

Withington: Image by Gene Hunt – https://www.flickr.com/photos/raver_mikey/481854617/in/set-72157600218938673/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2482351

by Steve Millington (Institute of Place Management); Karen Findley and Martin Saker (Manchester City Council); Dave Payne (Withington Village Regeneration Partnership)

Given under lockdown people are beginning to rediscover their locality (see Gary Warnaby’s IPM blog piece), and using centres within walking distance of their homes more often, it is timely to reconsider the role and function of smaller, and specifically district centres,in recovery planning. With people noticing the health and environmental benefits of reduced commuter traffic, adding to the well-documented benefits of walking and cycling, we might now reinforce such positive developments through a commitment to strengthening centres close to people’s homes, to embed ties to localities developed during lockdown. Furthermore, IPM research into 18 district centres in Greater Manchester suggests that around 150 businesses on average are located in each one, although the largest centres accommodate over 300. With 70 smaller, significant local and suburban centres across the GM region, collectively they make a significant contribution to the local economy.  Moreover, if predictions come to fruition the ‘New Normal’ will involve more people working from home, place leaders now need to think more seriously about the potential for district centres to become more than just places for convenience shopping and personal services.

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What’s next for the high street?

by Ben Stephenson*

Spring 2020 will be one for the history books as Covid-19 takes hold across the globe. But we need to start the thinking about what we could be facing on the other side, and take advantage of the opportunities where they exist, says placemaking consultant BEN STEPHENSON.

The rolling news cycle is both excruciating and addictive, with small, incremental developments about the spread of coronavirus available at every page-refresh. It’s exhausting and unhealthy to fixate on the immediate problem without also looking beyond, to how we plan for the recovery.

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The Time to Act is Now: A Framework for Post-COVID 19 Recovery for our Towns and Cities

By Nikos Ntounis, Regine Sonderland Saga, Maria Loronõ-Leturiondo, Tom Hindmarch and Cathy Parker

Each passing day we are witnessing the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 on the heart of our cities and towns, as the boundless pandemic is altering – and potentially displacing – their social and economic role. In the UK, as in other countries, the implementation of strict public health measures means that the majority of service-based and non-food retail, hospitality and leisure business premises remain closed to reduce social contact (MHCLG, 2020). Footfall, a key metric in the management of town centres and other commercial areas, has declined since the lockdown was announced on the 23rd of March. Yesterday (31st of March) footfall was down 81.4% compared to the same period last year (Springboard, 2020). The relatively short period of disruption has already triggered the first wave of store closures (Laura Ashley, BrightHouse, Carluccio’s), impacting first on the most vulnerable businesses, whose position was fragile even before COVID-19.

However, the scale of the pandemic and the unprecedented public health response will mean much more disturbance is yet to come.  Macroeconomic estimates suggest that the economic shock of COVID-19 will be around 10% of global GDP. This is five times more than the credit and liquidity problems that caused the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 (Milne, 2020). A massive number of bankruptcies will likely follow, which will put at risk many jobs and have a significant impact on the attractiveness of many of our towns and cities. Not only will their offer be reduced as less businesses come back to our town centres, post-COVID-19 – but there may be less demand for these businesses in the future. Prolonged lockdown can fundamentally change consumer behaviour, as people become dependent on having products delivered to their home. A survey by analyst Retail Economics of 2,000 consumers, quoted in The Guardian, found that two-thirds of shoppers said they had switched to purchasing products online that they have always previously purchased in-store (Inman, 2020). But the increasingly multifunctional town/city is not only at risk of being obsolescent to shoppers. People used to exercise in their front room, may not go back to the gym; employees who like working from home may not return to the office; friends accustomed to socialising online may no longer pop down the pub.

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Town Centre Management in Emsdetten, Germany

Emsdetten

by Ares Kalandides*

I recently had the opportunity to visit the town of Emsdetten (Westphalia, Germany), invited by the mayor’s office, in order to discuss the possibilities of a new Town Centre Management scheme. Emsdetten is a small town of 35,000 inhabitants in Westphalia, close to the city of Münster. Its centre, defined by a ring road and comprising approximately one tenth of the whole area, mainly consists of semi-pedestrianized streets and a locally important retail sector. What is however striking, is that in this rather wealthy town, where unemployment is low (under 4%) and medium income high, there are more and more empty shops. What exactly is happening here? And, furthermore, what can a future Town Centre Management do?

The IPM has been collecting and analysing similar information from UK cities for a long time , looking both at the factors that contribute to a place’s vitality and to broader trends in retail (e.g. the HSUK2020 and BDSU projects) . Whereas the UK experience cannot be directly transferred to Germany, there are however several phenomena that we observe – e.g. growth of online retail, changes in customer expectations, lifestyle differentiation, income disparities – across borders in many European locations. Continue reading “Town Centre Management in Emsdetten, Germany”

Crowd Science: Run, Hide, Tell

Crowd Science
People run down Oxford Street, London, Britain November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

By Prof Keith Still*

The recent crowd reaction to an incident at Oxford Circus Underground station highlights the escalating risks to crowds in places of public assembly. Namely, the crowds are reacting to incidents (real or perceived) very differently to how they reacted a few years ago.

Do you remember school, we were all drilled for evacuation practise? You line up, walk (DO NOT RUN) to the nearest exit. Now the message is very different. The advice is now to RUN. Continue reading “Crowd Science: Run, Hide, Tell”