Councils will soon be drawing on a range of practical examples in the fight to save local high streets from the ravages of the recession.
The Association of Town Centre Management, a membership organisation for public and private town centre partnerships, is compiling a guide to the 100 most innovative projects from across Europe.
The project is being funded by the Improvement and Development Agency and the national Skills Academy for Retail.
ATCM policy manager Ojay McDonald said the idea was to promote schemes that were successful but that had been limited to a local area.
He said: “From what respondents are saying one of the most important themes to have emerged is that local authorities and central government need to create the right environment for the high street to flourish.
“But it’s got to be down to a sustainable partnership because there are so many stakeholders that have access to the high street. You need to include retailers, property owners, consumers, residents and police.”
Mr McDonald said that shop vacancy rates could be tackled by councils persuading property owners to offer heavy discounts to new businesses.
He explained: “What happens then is with a short-term contract at maybe 20% of the market value rate, a new business gets the chance to build their potential to trade as a sort of incubator unit.”
Mr McDonald also said that the ATCM would also be encouraging councils to put on cultural events, improve streetscapes and organise local markets to bring people back to the high street.
“But we want local authorities to think laterally,” he added. “One of the most imaginative schemes I’ve seen is in Granollers, near Barcelona in Spain. They introduced a loyalty card shared between town centre businesses – the more you shop the bigger the discounts you get. Not necessarily in-store, either, you can use points on car parking, public transport, on different cultural events. In that way it integrates the whole town centre experience.”
Save the High Street
LGC is working with Retail Week on a summit on the regeneration of UK high streets and town centres. The programme includes speakers from Birmingham and Plymouth City Councils, Boots, John Lewis, Tesco, Association of Town Centre Management, and Action for Market Towns, as well as shadow communities and local government secretary Caroline Spelman. The summit takes place on 18 March in Birmingham. www.savethehighstreet.com