Centres for Excellence? Good growth through town centre regeneration
London and its growing population will need more employment space and new homes. The Mayor’s new draft London Plan identifies London’s town centres as sites for a significant part of this new development and growth. At the same time the increase in online retail and shift to leisure uses keep shaping our town centres.
Ever since the economic crisis of 2008, the vitality of town centres and high streets has been a cause for concern for members of the public and policy makers alike – fears for the demise of the town centre and the death of the high street have been staple media headlines ever since. Concerns for high street performance have further been amplified by drastic change in the retail sector over the past few years, including:
- The changing patterns in consumer retail and the rise of online shopping
- A loss of variety in the local retail offer
- Hikes in business rates following revaluation
- Local parking measures and restrictions
- More demanding customers in search of a retail experience as much as purely buying products
- Economic uncertainty, particularly the fall in real wage growth
- When reviewing large scale regeneration programmes, the Mayor should seek a public commitment from developers and local authorities to deliver good jobs, as well as employment and skills strategies that recognise the local context and make links with the local Further Education sector. For example, the London Plan Good Growth Policy 1 should make an explicit reference to good jobs, as should the policies around Opportunity Areas and Local and Strategic Regeneration.
- At a strategic level the Mayor needs to ensure that the London Plan supports the investment of social infrastructure in town centres1. The Mayor should also be looking to use his regeneration funds to pilot innovative service delivery models to incorporate social and civic functions in the new town centres.
- The Mayor needs to develop a consensus view on what “meaningful engagement” should look like and this should be integral throughout the policies in the London Plan, specifically policies on Town Centres and Local and Strategic Regeneration. There should also be recognition of the importance of the provision of community spaces in these policies.
- The Mayor also needs to set out how he intends to empower local communities and help build their capacity for a meaningful engagement and input whilst upholding Londoners’ interest in negotiations with local authorities and developers.
- Create good jobs with stability, decent pay and prospects for progress
- Put in place the right social infrastructure to support communities – both old and new - to grow and strengthen
- Involve and engage communities along the way to shape the direction development is taking