Ideas for making town centres better

Earlier this year New Start joined forces with Townstock 2012 to find the best ideas for reviving town centres. The competition was open to projects that have already proven they can work and that can be replicated for a small budget in towns and cities across the UK. We can now announce the winners, all of whom will be given an annual subscription to New Start magazine. We have also given honourable mentions to four schemes.


Mud Pies etc – London Play
A pop-up free play service on high streets in London. A London Play initiative that began as a response to cuts in play provision in the capital, the first Mud Pies etc was set up in a former council building on Tottenham high street that had been damaged during the riots. In an area where many families have no garden, it offers a space for kids to be creative in the outdoors. A second Mud Pies etc opened in a former school building in Lewisham, which has an overgrown nature garden. This scheme was a good example of partnership working and re-animated the high street while also providing a much-needed public service. For more info click here.

Gloucester Night Market – Gloucester Council
In response to a residents’ consultation, which highlighted concerns with visiting the town centre in the evening, the council launched a night market. It gave 40 new traders a stall for free to test their ideas, asked big retailers to open late on the evening of the market, invited local communities to sell food and local cultural groups to perform on the stage. The mix of a market and entertainment kept people in the town centre for longer and created an event for the whole community. The judges praised the initiative for its ability to unite new and established retailers and all sections of the local community. For more info click here.

Placecheck – Urban Design Skills
Placecheck is a simple method for deciding how to improve an area. A Placecheck consists of one of more walkabouts, followed by discussion of the information and opinions the walkabouts turn up and some more serious thinking about the next steps and who needs to be involved. A Placecheck can be initiated by anyone without much preparation. It won the Making Town Centres Better competition for its simplicity and its ability to put local people at the heart of making a better place to live and work. For more info click here.


Barking Bathhouse – Barking and Dagenham Council A pop-up spa and bar offering affordable massages and beauty treatments as well as giving local therapists a test bed through which to launch their careers and increasing the cultural offer of the town centre. For more info click here.

Library Lab – Architecture 00:/ –  Organisations were invited to work with the Willesden Green Library Centre in the middle of the high street, to re-animate the space and boost local entrepreneurship. Architecture 00:/ created a programme of free events and workshops as well as a pop-up co-working space and crèche. For more info click here.

Malpas Branding Project – Cheshire West and Chester Council – The branding exercise allowed the town to focus on and promote its under-valued heritage assets. For more info click here.

Unique Places Scheme – Caerphilly Council– The council’s Unique Places model of town centre management has brought focus to its local town centres. Town Centre Management Groups in four local towns meet quarterly to discuss operational and strategic issues impacting on the town centre and work to create an individual brand for their towns. For more info click here.


Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Helen Pakpahan
Helen Pakpahan
11 years ago

Action for Market Towns has been running awards of this nature for at least 12 years – so I would encourage anyone looking for ideas to look at their website or contact them about past winners.

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top