The search for the best high streets in the UK moves up a gear this week as the competition enters its final week. The Great British High Street Competition is open to town teams and recognised local partnerships that aim to nominate a high street in their area. All with the aim of celebrating the incredible diversity and services that British high streets provide.
The winners aim to win £50,000 of prize money and dedicated support and mentoring from industry experts. This could range from one to one coaching to advice on creating business plans to attending workshops on digital marketing.
High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt has written to all town teams and the local community to encourage them to take part in the competition, run by the Future High Street Forum to find Britain’s best high streets. Many town teams have already entered the 7 separate categories: city centres, town centres, market towns, coastal communities, villages, parades and London.
The forum brings together leaders across retail; property and business to better understand the competition town centres across the country face and to drive forward new ideas and policies. The forum’s role includes many different aims including trying helping to accelerate the programme of local mentoring established in response to the Portas review. Advising the government how better use might be made of existing buildings, to bring people back to live in town centres, increasing footfall and supporting shops. Furthermore, supporting the expansion of initiatives such as Love Your Local Markets and pop-up shops across the country. Also another key role for the group is researching a practical toolkit to help town teams future proof their high streets and exploring solutions to barriers like local parking policy.
A panel of expert independent judges using certain criteria will decide the winners. This criteria includes looking at high streets innovative schemes aimed at regeneration. Examples include developing surprising design solutions to transform a local marketplace; address a lack of public space; a creative use of technology to draw in more people and promote what is wonderful about the high street; or prototyping new funding models, policies or construction methods that have a big impact.
They aim to also look at levels of collaboration, how local people, organisations, businesses and local authorities have been mobilised and engaged. Seeing if high streets have been connecting young entrepreneurs with successful business people and offering a diverse, vibrant cultural and leisure offer, including meeting the needs of the community in the evening and night time economies.
There has been much debate among experts about high streets and town centres over recent years. It is evident that British town centres and high streets have undergone dramatic changes over the last decade. Many agree that the combined impact of long-term shifts in policy, demographics and transport with the medium and shorter-term impacts of online retail have changed high streets across the country.
Some high streets and city centres have looked towards new ideas and try to adapt to these changes. Interestingly recently, Britain’s high streets have been enjoying rejuvenation after a wide-ranging study found town centres and high streets were adapting to the demands of modern consumers with more convenience stores. A long-term investigation into British shopping habits from researchers at Southampton University, found the definition of convenience had changed for consumers. In addition, there have been many different ideas introduced to adapt UK high streets including innovative public space improvement schemes in London, such as at Trafalgar Square and Kensington High Street. They have shown that pedestrian and vehicular movement can both be accommodated in a way that is safe, convenient for all users, and visually attractive.
What else might be done to enhance local high streets across the country?