For the past several years I've been banging on about what I call "leisure and pleasure" as the future of town centres rather than shops and offices. It is absolutely the case that retail does not represent either a solution or a future for town centres - this is nothing to do with the evil supermarket or insufficiently tough planning restrictions. It is about how our shopping habits are changing with the result being:
*£6bn – Online spending in the UK in 2004
*£23bn – Online spending in the UK 2010
*£1.3 bn – Level of m-commerce in the UK 2011
*£19bn – predicted level of m-commerce in 2019
*15,000 – reduction in town centre stores between 2000-2009
* 6.5% fall in number of town centre shops by 2014
We really do need to rethink town centres - to consider how they entertain us, how they provide space for formal and informal events, for celebration and for fun. Yet everywhere - and my city of Bradford is no different - local councils, planners and developers are attached limpet-like to big retail developments as some sort of salvation for struggling centres. When will it dawn on them that they're wrong?