Our research and guidance

High streets contribute to the commercial, social, environmental and economic value of London. They are the focus for some of the highest levels of social interaction and activities where communities are at the very heart. To broaden the support provided by City Hall, the London Plan calls for the adaptation and diversification of town centres and strongly advocates a strategic approach.

Our high streets research supports London’s Boroughs, high street custodians, practitioners and related communities of interest to respond to this call.

High Streets – Adaptive Strategies

The High Streets - Adaptive Strategies guidance, as part of the Mayor of London’s Good Growth by Design programme, has been a collaborative piece of work between a number of London’s boroughs and partners across the capital, external experts and the Mayor’s Design Advocates. The guidance emphasises the public value of high streets and town centres, showcases the innovative work taking place to adapt them in the face of significant change and why we should continue to invest in them.

Ten case studies combined with national and international references showcase innovative approaches and in turn propose a range of principles and practice to support the development of adaptive strategies for renewal.

The guidance shows that success relies on quality, investment in infrastructure that balances the needs of different groups, and intelligent management of change, which will be different for each high street. It makes clear that the future lies in reinforcing the positive aspects of London’s town centres and high streets whilst embracing new opportunities.

This guidance provides the necessary support for boroughs and key agencies across the capital to engage in London’s high streets and respond to the many challenges they face.

The guidance was supported by consultants Gort Scott, We Made That and Hatch Regeneris.

About this guidance

It has been prepared for all involved in the development of better and more resilient high streets. It supports local partnerships to prepare adaptive strategies to deliver this goal.

Investing in high streets – page 15

It starts by asserting the public value of London’s high streets and sets out why we should continue to intervene and invest in them. It provides the strategic arguments to underpin efforts by local partnerships to gain support for their high street improvement projects. In doing so, it enables them to innovate and to generate solutions to the challenges of today.

Adapting to the challenges – page 29

The guidance then explores the challenges high streets face in general. The most prominent of these include the climate emergency, the impact of digital technology innovations on consumer behaviour and work patterns, and the need to accommodate housing by restructuring town centres. It outlines potential responses and provides support to local groups wishing to build resilience at a time of great change.

Case studies: Learning from London’s high streets – page 79

It then examines 10 case studies of high street innovation and renewal led by London boroughs or Business Improvement Districts. Taken together, these highlight the range of issues faced across London, and showcase the related leadership, goal setting, coordination, experimentation and inclusive practice needed to address them. The consultant team behind this guidance worked with the boroughs to develop a series of ‘what if’ scenarios based on their existing proposals to draw out lessons for others and show the way ahead. Each tackles a different set of challenges. These case studies are supplemented with inspiring examples of related projects from across the UK and beyond. These collectively provide useful insights and ways forward for those embarking on any aspect of high street regeneration.

Developing adaptive strategies – page 217

The guidance concludes with a set of principles and practices. These have been informed by the investment case, the examination of challenges and the study of boroughs’ existing and extrapolated activity. Each can be used to support experimentation and innovation as part of realisable proposals and strategy making.

High Streets for All

In the 2017 report, we look at the diverse economic, social and physical characteristics of high streets so that we can really understand how they are valued by Londoners. This will help us make the strongest case for advocating, intervening and investing in London’s high streets.

Further research and guidance

  • Learning from London’s high streets - shares the knowledge and experience of our team’s work supporting high streets
  • Accommodating Growth in Town Centres - assesses the changing nature of retail and the capacity and deliverability of housing intensification in and around London’s town centres
  • West End Good Growth - jointly commissioned with Westminster City Council to develop an evidence-based approach to achieve good growth in the West End. It develops scenarios for the West End economy to 2041, to explore the impact of different approaches to city growth and management.

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