I attended an online video link presented by industry experts on the future of our town centres. I thought it prudent and timely to relay some of the highlights. To keep you informed and ourselves up to speed with the latest development ideas.
Clearly, the last year has had quite a devastating effect on the high street and hospitality venues of all types. The main subject of the video was how the high street and workplace can recover given the obvious increased reliance on online shopping, and the fact many workers have been working from home for extended periods. Obviously some of the shopping chains were in decline before the pandemic, and lack of customers through the doors spelt their premature demise.
So solutions were discussed. This included the re-purposing of former shops and offices; hybrid landscapes where employees work different work patterns between home and workplace. An advantage here is more support for local shops, hospitality and food outlets near the place of work. So location, particularly with what we have gone through, has become an important consideration. Office space is still important to attract talent, but companies need to be more inventive in their approach. Using the space in different ways and in a more collaborative way. It is anticipated that local town centres will gain in importance as it is they that have made progress in finding ways to support local communities over the last year or so. In the main cities, larger shops may change business models by offering both online and in-shop experiences.
Modern shopping has changed over the years where people shop more as a leisure activity, and include dining out as part of the experience. This is anticipated to continue and shop owners need to rethink in some cases how they will operate post Covid.
Flexibility in building uses has new legislation to make it easier for owners to maximise the potential of their buildings, and put them to different purposes and utilise development opportunities for both shops and homes. This can be seen already in Nottingham in the new developments we see going up.
Other key points: Developers need to ensure the places are where people want to be, both to live and to work. Green spaces are seen as important, especially in built up areas, and even more so now. In a lot of designs this is being considered before the actual buildings. Places where people can escape from their office and homes for a while. Flexibility is seen as key to all developments.
With all these considerations, it is pertinent as a group, that we ensure our Neighbourhood Plan includes the majority of these features, which actually we think it does. However, it still needs your influence to ensure we include what you want to see. So as you know, we are looking to create a plaza in the centre of our development. We would like to hear your suggestions for what kind of shops and hospitality you would like to see included. We are also looking to include office space, but again your ideas would be appreciated and we want to ensure the Plan is inclusive for all our residents both current and in the future.
Please take time to consider what you would like to see and let us know your ideas. They will be most appreciated, and if you have any thoughts on any matters in our development plans, we’d like to hear from you. Thank you in anticipation.
Steve and the Community Development Focus Group