Campaigning to save local shops and services, by improving the public realm.
10 action points from Living Streets
The Living Streets Annual Conference 2005 was entitled ‘The Walking Pound’ and looked how pedestrians bring money into local shopping centres, and how making the environment better for walking also makes it better for business. The basic equation is:
better walking environment = good for local businesses = stronger communities
Not only do people who walk to the shops spend more per week but overall, the nicer the environment for walking and enjoying, the more people spend.
Thriving local shops, cafes and pubs are the hub of community life, together with places of religious worship and community halls, libraries and post offices and other services. When these are put together with attractive places to sit and watch the world go by, decent public toilets, good links to public transport and streets not too dominated by traffic, the economy and the community thrive.
This is an issue because local high streets and parades are struggling. Every day more post offices, pubs and independent shops close. All the growth is pouring in to the top 150 shopping centres, both city centres and out-of-town shopping malls.
Living Streets campaigns for shops and services in walking distance from where we live. Walking is at the heart of sustainable communities.
Shopping centre: a place with shops, so means anything from local parade or high street to town or city centre or purpose-built retail centre or out-of-town shopping mall.
Pedestrianisation: This term does not necessarily mean complete pedestrianisation, where no cars are let through. It is the term used for all improvements to pedestrian facilities from widening pavements and improving crossings to removing through-traffic and on-street parking.
10 actions Edit
1. Use the research
Evidence shows that greater pedestrianisation will increase business rather than reduce it, contrary to what retailers generally believe. However, there is a proviso, which is that fragile businesses may need support for the first 12 months after the pedestrianisation while the changes bed down. Research references are available in the conference press release which is on the website, via this link. The full release with the references given as footnotes is available there as a download.
2. Argue for Town Centre Management principles
Argue that local high streets and neighbourhood shops need to adopt the same principles as towns and cities. Without the council, local businesses and people working together, neighbourhood shopping centres can die. ‘Town Centre Management’ brings together a vision and a package of measures to win back confidence and trade to shopping centres. It pulls together retail strategy, public realm improvements, public transport strategy, preserving heritage, marketing the town’s identity, developing a ‘niche’ identity e.g. spa town, home of good food, etc. Even little neighbourhood shopping centres need to do this if they are to attract customers. 3. Lobby for council leadership
Councils need to provide leadership to such schemes, so lobby your councillors and Executive member for transport/environment/regeneration/local economy, and senior officers. Tell them how important local shops and services are to your neighbourhood.
4. Think outside transport box for funding
Think outside the transport box. Funding may be available from regeneration budgets, or neighbourhood renewal, or from a partnership which can be put together at the Local Strategic Partnership forums. Local Transport Plan guidance sets priorities which guide transportation budgets. Tackling congestion, ensuring people have access to jobs, education etc, air quality and road safety are the main ones, together with the quality of public transport and quality of life outcomes (health, liveability and the quality of the environment). Plans to improve the public realm around shops may well meet some or all of those priorities so it is worth arguing for funding from the transport budget as well as others.
5. Talk to the business community about becoming a BID
Getting to know local shop keepers and business people is a good idea anyway. How organised are they already in terms of working with the council, police and other agencies to improve the public realm, improve street cleanliness, tackle anti-social behaviour etc? What are their views about traffic and parking problems? How is business going, is there enough ‘footfall’, what ideas do they have to increase the number of people coming to the shopping centre? One option of raising money for improvements to the walking environment is a BID (Business Improvement District). This is where the businesses themselves pay into a fund for increased services and improvements that will bring benefits to all of them in terms of increased confidence, more shoppers, better image etc. A majority of businesses need to support the BID, and they sometimes fail to win enough support. If some of your local businesses are interested, it would be worth meeting them to discuss improvements to the walking environment and how that can help them.
6. Use the findings of the Walkability Project
Get a copy of the June 2005 Update on Living Streets’ Walkability Project. Research with local people from four sites in Outer London boroughs led to "Top 10 recommendations" on ways to improve the walking environment and make their high streets feel safer and more attractive.
7. Use Community Street Audits
Ask your council to bring in Living Streets to do Community Street Audits (CSAs) on the streets in and around their local shopping centres. The CSA brings together local people, including disabled and older people, to identify what is working and not working about their streets, and what solutions, both big and small, could be applied. Living Streets’ audits look at the street environment holistically, from the point of view of the people who use them every day. The contact at Living Streets is Consultancy Services Manager Bron Thornton on 020 7820 1010.
8. Join the Local Works campaign
Local Works is the name of the campaign for the Sustainable Communities Bill. It aims to give local councils and local people the powers to support their local economies, use local shops and services, source food locally etc. It aims to reverse the ‘Ghost Town Britain’ effect in which smaller shops, pubs and post offices are closing all over the country. Go to www.localworks.org.uk for information. The ‘Ghost Town Britain’ report, and other research detailing the decline of local shops and services, and solutions to the larger economic problems, is published by the New Economics Foundation at www.neweconomics.org
9. Watch out for new road building
Ask the council for plans of any new road building in your area. New roads and flyovers can destroy existing shopping streets. Living Streets can provide examples where this has happened. See the arguments being employed by transport campaigners against the proposed new Thames Gateway Bridge. Each proposal for a new road or widening of existing roads needs to be examined for its potential impact on pedestrians, the attractiveness of the neighbourhood, the impact on local shops and services, and the likely impact of increased traffic and possibility of longer journeys by local people to get to work, to school, to go shopping etc.
10. Watch out for new supermarkets and retail centres
Ask the council for plans of any new supermarkets, or extensions to existing supermarkets, and retail centres in the area. Supermarkets often put small independent stores out of business. Supermarkets and retail centres are usually designed to be driven to, and their size means traditional street patterns are broken, and walking routes severed. But they are not always bad news - a smaller store, carefully positioned within the traditional high street, and restricted in what it can offer, can increase footfall and therefore help smaller independent shops. The local authority needs to a) have a strategy which sets out clearly a vision for the town/neighbourhood centre into which any new developments fit and b) use its muscle to negotiate with the supermarket chain as to parking and pedestrian provision, size and design of store, what goods and services can be sold etc.
More about Living Streets Edit
Living Streets campaigns for better streets and public space for people on foot. They have local branches and contacts, and materials to help people campaign locally. Contact them via their website at www.livingstreets.org.uk
- Thursday, 9 March 2006 - FoE welcomes call for investigation into supermarket power.