We all need our town centres. But more than that, we need our town centres to work better for us.
As consumers grow increasingly comfortable with online shopping, the realisation that our towns are over-reliant on retail is being played out at a national level. No longer can we expect empty retail units to be snapped up by new tenants in a matter of weeks. The office market faces similar challenges, with office workers now demanding greater flexibility and a blending of time spent between office and home, causing office occupiers to assess how they use their space and how much space they need. And what about residential? Much has been said about the pandemic prompting a ‘race for space’, but will urban living be key to bringing footfall back into our town centres?
Social behaviours have changed, and our town centres need to change with them, or risk being left behind. Greater flexibility and more variety of uses are needed but, with so many stakeholders involved, delivering a joined-up vision for a town centre is not easy to achieve. Issues around funding, shifts in yields, disparate ownership and an inherently slow-moving system are challenges that need to be overcome. But one thing is for sure, the town of tomorrow needs to be led by the consumer. Only through developing urban neighbourhoods which better reflect the needs of the modern consumer and throwing aside dated concepts of what worked in the past, will we see the true revival of our town centres.
Shoosmiths recently hosted a roundtable debate with various stakeholders to discuss these issues and more, analysing what is really required to deliver the town of tomorrow. The participants were:
- Stephen Martin, Senior Estate Manager – Boots
- Neil Hockin, Director & Head of Shopping Centre Leasing – Lunson Mitchenall
- Michael Whitney, Head of Development – Ellandi
- Stuart Heslop, Managing Director, Real Estate Finance, Scotland & North England and UK Housing Finance – RBS
- Scott Cardwell, Assistant Director for Development - Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
- Ian Fletcher, Director of Policy (Real Estate) – British Property Federation
- Stephanie Smith, Director - Portfolio Operations, Europe – Invesco
- Janette Speed, Partner & Head of Real Estate (Scotland) – Shoosmiths
- Chair: Nathan Rees, Partner – Shoosmiths
To access the report, please click on the link to the right of this page.