An arcade is “a glass covered passageway which connects two
busy streets and is lined on both sides with shops”. First developed in Paris in the late
eighteenth century, arcades were a key element of the European retail and urban
environment by the mid-nineteenth century. They were regarded as symbols of
modernity and vitality because of their innovative use of architectural design,
building materials and techniques, and they contributed to a wider process of
civic boosterism of the Victorian city.
However, according to MacKeith, by the start of the twentieth century, the
arcade’s heyday was already passing, with those constructed in the early
twentieth century being smaller and less architecturally ambitious than their
nineteenth century predecessors, and furthermore, arcades were often
marginalised in new post-war shopping development schemes.
Whilst the current political and economic
uncertainty surrounding Brexit is generating division and negativity at a
national level, there have been a lot of new policy announcements recently that
are, paradoxically, good news for local town centres and high streets.
The Budget of October 2018 promised to cut
the business rate bills of small retailers by one-third; a package that is
worth nearly £1bn. At the same time, the £675m Future High
Streets Fund was launched to support the transformation of England’s high
streets, from mono-functional retail centres to multifunctional community hubs.
The October 2018 Budget also announced the creation of a High Streets Task
Force, to provide much-needed expertise, training, data and insight to the
place leaders and partnerships that are reinventing their local areas, with a
budget of just over £8.6m for 5 years. The Institute of Place Management is
leading a consortium of partners to run the High Street Task Force, which will
be fully operational by July 2020.
Collecting, analysing and sharing Best Practices, i.e. examples of projects, policies, cases, etc. that have worked out in one place and could be applied to others, is a very common practice in Place Management. It is argued that people and organizations in one place can learn from the experiences of their counterparts in another and that, after considering their adaptability, can apply similar techniques in their own context. This seems like a reasonable assumption: while we mostly learn from our own experiences, and psychologists have demonstrated the validity of this argument, we do take into consideration what other people have experienced elsewhere, albeit marginally.
Urban stakeholders are increasingly realising the importance
of collective action in attempts to ‘future proof’ town and city centres, to
ensure that ‘their’ centre retains an important role in the economic and social
life of associated communities. Such
collective actions, often implemented under the aegis of urban management
partnerships (UMPs), raise some key questions for these organisations: what
type(s) of collective interventions are the most effective; and how to create
sufficient support for them?
In 2017-18, a research project, led by the Amsterdam
University of Applied Sciences and funded by Shopping Tomorrow (a Dutch retail and e-commerce think-tank), which
comprised an expert group containing a number of IPM researchers and members,
tried to answer these questions.
Specifically, the research – which analysed a variety of different types
of interventions in 21 towns and cities across the Netherlands, Belgium and the
UK – sought to identify and illustrate the factors that underpin successful
collective interventions aimed at ’future-proofing’ town and city centres.
Area Based Collaborative Enterprise concerns the ways in which local entrepreneurs join forces and form collectives to stimulate business growth and innovation, and to create a more attractive business environment. A clear example in a UK context would be a Business Improvement District.
The project ABCities is funded by INTERREG, a programme aims to help regional and local government to develop and deliver better policy by creating opportunities for sharing solutions to ensure government investment, innovation and interventions lead to integrated and sustainable impact for people and place, by embedding new guidance and measures within existing policy for area based economic development.
The challenge, therefore, is not necessarily poor policy,
but a concern about the mechanisms and techniques used by state institutions to
deliver place based policy.
concern about global inequality, there has been an international resurgence of
co-operative and community-focused projects and initiatives. The UK, however, offers
a particularly interesting context.
Subject to prolonged austerity measures, the capacity of local
government to intervene in local development has been drastically undermined. With
growing inequality and a pressing need to fill the gaps in under-served
communities, local authorities in many places are beginning to abandon their
paternalistic top-down approach, and to experiment with new and alternative
organisational forms of place management.
Business Improvement Districts are taking over responsibility for town and city
management, with over 300 now established. There are 471,000 social enterprises
across the country, employing 1.44 million people,
and a network of 26 designated social enterprise places,
whereas Scotland is advocating Community Improvement Districts. Most celebrated, perhaps, is The Preston
developed by Preston City Council and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES),
which has reformed local government procurement to enable key locally embedded
“anchor” institutions to run local services. The model is designed to recapture
investment and circulate local wealth within the local economy. Where gaps in
provision remain, CLES suggests the formation of new worker co-operatives.
I have been researching Citizen Participation in urban development in Berlin, since 2016, when the new Berlin state government coalition signed a contract, introducing participation as one of its leading principles. When I started, I was trying to understand what the provisions of the contract were and how that could be conceptualized. Conceptualization is not just an intellectual exercise (although it is that, too): it implicitly or explicitly guides the way we think, talk and act – and also the way we design policy.
DECISION MAKING IN PLACE: GUT FEELING
making decisions most managers look up and look around, relying on their
support structures i.e. people close to them, not because of lack of experience
but for the fear of not getting their decisions right. This act of looking up
and looking around is important and it is the use of “Gut-feeling” when managers are faced with making decisions that (1)
involve large capital, (2) have significant impact on the long-term plan of
their organisations and (3) involves public exposure. Place managers like their
counterparts in other managerial areas make decisions daily. In place management, managers make decisions about
places, particularly the public realm such as town and city centres, ensuring
effective collaboration with all stakeholders, policing the centres and
improving infrastructural outlook of the places they manage. Place managers by
their decisions make a critical contribution to the thriving of places, and those
decision impacts on people’s everyday lives in places.
Alternative currencies have been around for many years, to the point that they can be seen as a rather old technology for dealing with societal, economic, and developmental changes. Indeed, the first forms of alternative currencies were presented during the cash-poor interwar era in Europe and the US as an attempt to incentivise spending, discourage saving, and keep local economies afloat in a time of severe unemployment, poverty, and uncertainty (NEF, 2015). Fast forward almost 90 years, and similar issues pertain to the vast majority of our cities and towns, not only in the UK, but around the world. Unsurprisingly, alternative currencies are on the rise in various forms: timebanks, time-credit systems, local exchange trading systems, complementary currencies, convertible local currencies that are backed by the national currency, etc. More recently, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have risen to prominence and gained immense political and monetary value as decentralised transactional networks that injected a huge influx of money into a new marketplace that was ready to dismiss the old system of fiat money (Matchett, 2017).
CounterCoin, a new alternative currency developed by a team of economic and social development practitioners, while still in its infancy, is already helping people make a change to the town centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme. We were recently invited to a meeting in the “headquarters” of CounterCoin, the Cultural Squatters community café in York Place shopping centre, in order to join the team spearheading the creation of this new alternative currency. Continue reading “CounterCoin and Cultural Squatters in Newcastle-Under-Lyme”→