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2004 saw the first publication of a consistent set of boundaries for...
2004 saw the first publication of a consistent set of boundaries for

town centres across England and Wales, together with statistics

covering employment and floorspace. These statistical boundaries are

generated from data on economic activity, in order to take a

consistent approach to defining town centres - they do not define

town centres for planning policy purposes. The boundaries will

change over time, as the underlying economic data changes, reflecting

the growth and decline of the town centres.

Released in April 2004, the first set of boundaries and statistics

were based on 2000 data and were released on a consultation basis to

generate feedback. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are now updating this to cover 2002 data, whilst introducing minor changes to the 2000 set. Both years'

boundaries and statistics are available on a provisional basis

through the ODPM's website.

Planned revisions to the underlying floorspace data are due in June

2005, after which ODPM will release revised boundaries and

statistics, covering a longer time series. The report on the website

that accompanied the original release in April 2004 explained the

background, technical detail and caveats associated with this town

centres statistics project, and it is still applicable to this new

release of 2002 boundaries and statistics.

The main results

The 2002 boundaries cover 1033 areas of town centre activity, and 46

retail cores - concentrations of retail activity within town centres.

This is very similar to the 2000 set of boundaries, but there have

been some changes. Holborn and Clerkenwell retail cores in London

have merged, as have town centres in Putney. Most town centres will

have seen a small amount of change where there has been development

around the boundary. For instance, it is possible to identify the

development since 2000 at Temple Quay in Bristol. However, two years'

data is not sufficient to draw any conclusions regarding growth or

decline from this developing data source, especially with the

revisions to the data due later this year.

Whilst this project generates boundaries for many smaller town

centres, areas smaller than 4 hectares are not included since the

geo-referencing within the boundaries is not accurate enough, and the

data is likely to compromise confidentiality. As a result, in some

areas whilst the levels of town centre activity may have changed only

very slightly, it has resulted in new small town centres being

identified in the 2002 set, since the boundary has just crept over

the 4 hectare threshold. Similarly, other small town centres that

were included in 2000 have dropped out in the 2002 set.

Changes to 2000 data set

There have been some minor revisions to the 2000 set of boundaries

and statistics following user-feedback on the release in April 2004.

Making use of local knowledge is vital to this project, and we are

very grateful for all the feedbackwe receive. Comments help to

improve the boundaries and statistics, and are taken into account in

improving the project for future releases. For instance, several

centres included in the 2000 set have been renamed to better reflect

the local area, following comments from users.

Floorspace Data revisions

The boundaries and statistics are marked as provisional and subject

to revision. The floorspace statistics that underlie the town centres

project are undergoing revisions to provide comparable data from 1998

to 2004. This series will be released in June 2005. We anticipate

these revisions will have a small impact on the boundaries and

statistics for areas of town centre activity for 2002, and perhaps

more so for the 2000 set. As a result, the planned release of a

longer time series of boundaries and statistics has been postponed

until later in 2005, when we will be able to incorporate the

floorspace revisions. The time series release will also include a

number of other planned changes to cover more complete data and

improved web access to the data.

PO Box Data Issues

The data covering employment comes from the Office for National

Statistics (ONS) Annual Business Inquiry (ABI). This data is

allocated to postcodes that are geo-referenced to a specific

location, and it is this geo-referenced data that creates the measure

of town centre activity that in turn determines the boundaries.

However, where data is attached to a PO Box, it is geo-referenced to

the sorting office from which the post is delivered, rather than the

actual business address. This artificially increases business

activity levels around sorting offices, and simultaneously detracts

from town centre activity levels. Since most larger town centres

contain a sorting office with a significant level of PO box activity,

this is an important data quality issue affecting the current

boundaries and statistics. ODPM are working to address this issue,

in conjunction with ONS, and a resolution will be in place when the

revised boundaries and statistics are released later in 2005.


1. The 2002 boundaries and statistics continue the outputs from

ODPM's Town Centres Statistics project and update the 2000 boundaries

and statistics published in April 2004.

2. The boundaries and associated statistics are provisional and

subject to revision. PLUS1 are undertaking a series of revisions to

provide a comparable time series of floorspace statistics from 1998

to 2004. This series will be released in June 2005. These revisions

will feed into the town centres work and revised boundaries and

statistics will be released towards the end of 2005.

3. The floorspace and rateable value statistics for non-domestic

properties in England and Wales are compiled by ODPM for government

office regions, local authority districts and wards as at 1 April

each year. The statistics are derived from administrative databases

used by the VOA in the process of assessing the value on non-domestic

property in England and Wales.

4. The employment statistics come from the Office for National

Statistics' Annual Business Inquiry. The 2002 data included in this

project is currently provisional. Final data was released by ONS in

December 2004, with only minor revisions, and will be incorporated in

the town centres release at the end of 2005.

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