Community involvement is essential to reformulate the high street, report says

Community involvement will be a necessary part of reformulating the high street post-pandemic, according to a new report published by the think tank Centre for London. 

Shops and businesses in city centres have borne the brunt of lockdowns and the increase in online shopping has hastened the overall decline of high street retail.

When shops and retailers close they leave vacant units on the high street which can quickly become an eye-sore, however, based on quantitative and qualitative research, researchers at Centre for London have highlighted the importance of local communities in delivering new uses for these units.

Community businesses and other local enterprises that reinvest their revenues into continued local improvement also have a strong track record of delivering social and economic value.

However, the report highlights that the commercial property market may need to adjust to this transition, with high and inflexible rents acting as barriers to positive community-led change.

The authors also state that successful high street renewal will require a genuine partnership between all town centre stakeholders: private, public and community sectors must work together.

Current high street recovery programmes, particularly the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) High Street Challenge, offer a practical opportunity to do this.

There is a range of possibilities for how community involvement in high streets can be structured and funded.

Therefore, the authors highlight that the national government should reconsider the extension of permitted development rights on changes of use from commercial to residential properties.

They should also review the powers of local authorities to intervene in high streets where there are cases of market failure and ensure that the upcoming Community Ownership Fund is flexible and appropriately targeted. Match-funding requirements could limit its effectiveness where it is most needed and applications for revenue funding should be allowed so that sustainable business plans for community-owned assets can be developed.



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