Thursday, 20 October 2011

A thought on the High Street...


Since we all want to save the High Street (so long as you don't mind if we head off to White Rose or Bluewater for our Chrissie shopping) and cheer as people call for "town centre first" planning policies and other approaches to stopping the growth of new wave out-of-twon shopping. It won't work. Indeed, even the Centre for Cities seem to think it won't work:

Firstly, the current ‘town centre first’ policy has not prevented the patterns of spatial development seen in places such as Sunderland. Secondly, some businesses, such as manufacturing firms, do not need a city centre location and function better being served by good motorway access. And thirdly, cities such as Sunderland have benefitted from the strong private sector jobs growth seen on out-of-town business parks. Restricting out-of-town growth would likely have restricted overall jobs growth. And that would not have been a good outcome for the city.

Ultimately the preferences of consumers and businesses alike in many cities have driven demand for out-of-town developments in recent years. If city centres are to be strengthened then the key is to remove the barriers that currently make a central location less profitable for businesses than a site on the outskirts, rather than limiting development on the periphery. The problem is that by trying to improve the High Street in isolation, instead of understanding it in its wider context, BIS is attempting to provide a partial solution to a much wider problem. And the likely outcome is that such a solution will have very little impact as a result.

The solution lies in leisure and pleasure plus cost effective access rather than draconian, job-destroying planning policies.

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