‘Localism on steroids’ needed to save failing high streets

An independent report has called for communities to be given a say in how high streets are designed and which businesses are allowed to trade there.

The report has been written by a team led by veteran retailer Bill Grimsey and warns that almost 50% of retailers are at risk of failure, as the economy slows down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to save town centres, the report argues that local people must be empowered to redesign their own high streets and have a say on the businesses, services and amenities that occupy it.

It also adds that towns and cities must no longer be designed around the car and the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods where people are able to get all the services they need within a short walk.

Among the report’s other recommendations are Citizens’ Assemblies to create a community plan that moves beyond retail and powerful new community right to buy laws to ensure unused or neglected properties are forced back onto the market and can be bought by community trusts or local communities.

‘COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of private equity owned high streets that have squeezed all the value from their businesses and left communities hollowed out,’ said Mr Grimsey.

‘We need to build local economies around people who have a proper stake in their communities, not distant investors who only see them as a number on their portfolio investment.’

Responding to the report, the chief executive of think tank Localis, Jonathan Werran, said: ‘In the teeth of the biggest recession in recorded history, our under-threat high streets must make maximum use of social value from public service commissioning to aid their necessary transformation for survival.

‘The social value agenda presents the most direct and immediate route to building back better socially and making the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda for rebalancing the economy come together.

‘The Grimsey Review’s support for Localis’s Community Value Charter model – which requires councils to give communities a greater say in the benefits received in the commissioning of local services from commercial suppliers – will, we hope, inspire local government and the wider public sector to pick up and run with a simple and effective way to kickstart the long journey from lockdown to recovery.’

Photo Credit – Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top