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Beyond Retail:Redefining the shape & purpose of town centres


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I came across this article and thought it was very apt, with the development of the Old Livestock Market and its potential effect on the established retail businesses, especially in High Town and its related retail streets. It would be an idea to give this report some debate and how it relates to Hereford. The OLM will be the only shopping development opening next year in the UK and to wait until it opens before finding alternative strategies for the established shopping areas, will I fear be too late for most businesses. How would you like to see the two areas working and interacting?
High Street needs post-war scale rebuilding says report
By Emma Simpson, Business correspondent, BBC News
29 November 2013 
Rejuvenating town centres requires radical action on a scale not seen since the building programmes of post-war Britain, according to a new report.
The Distressed Town Centre Property Taskforce says structural changes needed in retail are so fundamental, many towns and cities need reshaping.
The taskforce was set up following Mary Portas's review of the High Street.
The report calls on the government to designate town and city centres as key national infrastructure.
In its scale and range, it is an unprecedented group. For the past 13 months, senior retailers, property investors, landlords and bankers have been investigating the impact of the changes that have affected retail and property in England's towns and city centres.
In other words, the folk who own and finance so much of our town centres have come up with their own solutions on what to do.
Too many shops?
One of the main recommendations is that the government should designate town and city centres as key national infrastructure in order to open up new funding opportunities.
The retail landscape has changed completely in the last five years, thanks to the recession and the shift to online shopping.
It has left most towns with too many shops.
The report found that in the past four decades, retail floor space in England increased by around 43 million square metres.
That is the equivalent of building nearly 300 Bluewater Shopping centres across England, or seven of the new Westfield centres near the London Olympic site every year since the early 1970s.
The chairman of the taskforce, Mark Williams, said: "There's still a need for vibrant retail, just less of it."
Mr Williams, who is also a partner at the retail property firm, Hark Group, added: "Over the past 12 months, it has become increasingly clear that waiting for so called 'normal' economic growth to return is unviable: Many more town centres will have embarked on a course of terminal decline."
Solutions, he says, will vary from place to place but for the overwhelming majority, a smaller retail core is necessary and alternative uses like housing and leisure need to be found.
But for local authorities, it hasn't been easy tackling the surplus of space and with it the scourge of empty properties.
There are often a myriad of different landlords and competing interests to deal with, as well as getting funding.
Friday's report spells out the problems along with recommendations for change.
They include:
* Government should designate town and city centres as infrastructure in order to open significant funding opportunities currently not accessible. A High Street Infrastructure platform should be set up to help to deliver this idea
* Bold and strategic land assembly is required. Government should pilot a joint venture vehicle and an associated High Street property fund to pool land assets and address fragmented ownership
* Make it easier for councils to use compulsory purchase powers in order to bring about the scale required for major urban regeneration
* Local authorities should take more risk in investing capital reserves now, which can be replenished as the economy recovers
* Significantly greater flexibility in the planning system is needed to enable quick and easy change of use from redundant retail premises to more economically productive uses
Edward Cooke, the director of policy for the British Council of Shopping Centres, said: "All stakeholders have a role to play: Individuals, local councils, local and national businesses and central government.
"We believe these recommendations will deliver the direction and the funding necessary to make this happen."
The question is, who will be paying for all this potential change?
The group says it is not asking the taxpayer to foot the entire bill. Often the problem is down to a gap in funding, which, if plugged, would make a development viable.
The Taskforce believes post-financial crisis, the traditional funding models for town centre redevelopment are no longer fit for purpose.
New ways of funding have to be found and that key bodies in the retail and property sectors are keen to play their part.
The message from the retail property industry to the government is clear: they are prepared to demolish land and write off distressed buildings to regenerate town centres, if the public sector and government can make it easier rebuild.
Mr Williams said: "There is a huge amount of private sector funds available to regenerate town centres. But it requires scale and planning. What it's not there is for piecemeal change, an ad hoc approach to fix the odd shop.
"So we're looking about scale and critical mass. And in that sense the private sector will respond to local authorities and government initiatives."
The Taskforce says it is up to individual communities and local authorities to decide what is right for their area. But "future proofing" towns will require strong local leadership.
The big commercial stakeholders in our towns and cities are not often comfortable bedfellows, but they have all signed up to this report.
"What is extremely pleasing is that a wide coalition of influential stakeholders has united behind agreed parking issues and develop local plans and good local vision," said Tom Ironside, British Retail Consortium Director of Business and Regulation.
The government, which encouraged the Taskforce to be set up, is now digesting the findings.
The Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, said: "It's a really interesting report with some really interesting things here which we need to look at. We are doing an awful lot for the High Street, we're empowering local communities to shape their town centres for what's right for their communities in the future."
2.1 Vision
2.2 Primary challenges
4.1 Historic trends
4.2 The perfect storm
4.3 High vacancy rates
4.4 Population growth and relative affluence
5.1 Local leadership
5.2 Polarisation
5.3 Too much retail floorspace
5.4 The wrong type of space
5.5 Understanding the catchment demographics and shopping patterns
5.6 Car parking
5.7 Business rates
5.8 Digitising the high street
5.9 Funding
Appendix 1 — Survey results
Appendix 2 — Interviewees and survey contributors
Appendix 3 — Town Performance Matrix
Appendix 4 — Sample towns
Appendix 5 — Taskforce members


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Ragwert, what would you suggest? Affordable housing? You can't just change the use of a retail premises it's not that simple and even if you could, I see no alternative use for these shops bearing in mind the location of some of them. I barely recognise high town as it is I certainly don't want it over run with foreign retailers, which looks likely. I forget I'm English some days. Don't get me wrong I admire a lot of these people coming over here to make a better life for themselves and I would never question their work ethic but I don't want Hereford town centre turning into the equivalent of little China town, simply for the fact of our heritage. High town is losing its Historical integrity and is looking less and less like the beautiful City it once was. I wish they'd poured everything into restoring it to its former glory instead of the monstrously ugly building they loving call the OLM! I envisage high town turning into a separate quarter full of foreign shops and outlets that drives away local people and segregates local communities. 

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High Town is lost. Walking through the place is a depressing experience. The rot that has set in, and rot, being what rot is, tends to creep and consume and destroy all that's in it's path. Much of our beautiful City centre has been consumed by this rot and I personally don't think that there is a treatment now available that'll stop this rot.

When you make a political decision to abandon High Town and move our retail economy to another place, the rot is inevitable. High Town has long since passed the tipping point. There was a time when if they'd painted the place, tore down the scaffolding, restricted the 'rotten' shops to some other area of the City and stopped the drinking from a bottle secreted within a brown paper bag, High Town may have had a chance to ride the storm of this new economic reality, but now its to late. Much to late. The Buttermarket will close, the rot will gather momentum and creep along Broad Street and St.Owen Street, local traders will fold, other less desirable traders who's overheads are small will replace them and the rot marches on. Relentless destroying all that's in it's path.

Of course rot, being what is, doesn't travel in one direction. The rot is travelling from areas beyond High Town and when that rot, meets the rot travelling from within High Town, then you get big bloody rot. The sort of rot that makes you think twice before walking through the Old Burial Ground of Commercial Road or makes you to scared to walk home in case some fool desperate for money and unable to get a home decides they want your money and anything else of value that you've tucked into your pockets.

The rot that has taken a grip upon our home, our culture and our way of life is an extremely fast moving rot that, after its consumed what it wants in High Town, will surely creep across New Market Street and eat away at the Empire of Dirt taking with it the much cherished brand names they were so desperate to get into the ESG. Then, once these brand names clear off because our economy hasn't the levels of disposable income that are required to sate their needs, they'll quietly move away leaving us with a load of other shops that we didn't want, who are selling stuff you'd never think of eating or drinking or smoking.

All this will happen. It'll happen, not because I say so, but because of simple and straightforward economics. If your money is not spent and recycled within your economy then the rot will flourish. For a home like ours to prosper, advance and create wealth and happiness, we need its residents to care. To love their home City. To think, 'this is home and Im putting my litter in that basket'. The residents need to invest their families lives in our City and understand that we need to smile. Not glare at oneanother as if each day is a fight of survival. Warmth. Respect for oneanother. Comradeship and a need to reach out and simply express happiness rather than, rushing through town, keeping your head down trying to avoid eye contact because of fear of things and something that we cannot understand because of irresponsible political decisions.

Some might say, 'what a gloomy bloody forecast'. Well this is how I view it. Truly, I hope Im on my own. I wouldn't want any of you to see things through my eyes but I genuinely believe that the day our Council jumped under the covers with a bunch of asset stripping suits, was the day our future happiness, unique identity and our High Town was lost forever and it ain't ever going to recover itself anytime soon. This rot is here. It's hungry and its relentless and I know, beyond any personal doubt that an economy is not just about money. It's about a people. Herefordians being happy and intent on one thing. Being at ease with themselves, feeling relaxed and confident about the future. As a Herefordian, I no longer feel any of these things. All I see is a County being asset stripped of its wealth.

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Why does the city look like a dump? The visitor's first point of contact with the city is through its roads and car parks. As I have pointed out most car parks in this city look like bomb sites. Also there are too many all at ground level with the exception of the Garrick multi-storey in Widemarsh Street and open to all weathers. If the council doubled up with a first floor this would release land to be turned into green corridors/squares linking through the city. Most roads in the city are covered in grit, pot holes and litter especially around traffic islands. No doubt Blackfriars will be the first to be completely resurfaced just before the OLM opens. At the moment you have to cycle down the middle of the road to find a level surface.



The Repot states:


5.6 Car parking
Car parking is an emotive issue however its key role should be to provide easy access to town centre facilities. The amount, location, quality and price of parking needs to be arranged to meet this primary objective. It should not be treated primarily as an income stream generator or to promote objectives such as the use of alternative modes of transport that can often deter consumers from using town centre facilities when faced with free out-of-town parking. Parking charges were cited as a driving factor of change in our sample towns in 25% of all stakeholder interviews, further stating that town centre parking should be free or heavily subsidised.
There is a correlation between location, cost, specification and age of (multi-storey) car parks and usage and therefore the attraction of the town centre. However, the revenue is important to local authorities.
Car parking provision in a number of centres is in the form of ageing multi-storey blocks. Often these are not well suited to accommodating today’s large family cars; they are not well managed or maintained and can be quite a threatening environment to shoppers.
Aligned to car parking, ease of accessibility to the town centre and its car parks is crucial in helping town centres to compete effectively against out-of-town competition.
A free town centre parking scheme was trailed in Middlesbrough to great success with 9/10 in-town retailers witnessing an uplift in trade at the expense of nearby retail parks. Middlesbrough Council lost out on £350k of revenue nevertheless witnessing a direct uplift in town centre trade outweighed the loss in revenue. However, controls over parking remain necessary in order to ensure that it is not abused and that there is a turnover of spaces to ensure capacity is available.
Further, car parks need to be properly managed to ensure that not only are they safe and easy to access and navigate, an issue also referenced in four sample towns and by cross section of stakeholders from our study. Quality of car parks has an effect upon their use — 1960's designed and built car parks, especially multi-storey, put people off, especially at night and, if isolated from the high street or shopping centre. This is not difficult to remedy with paint, lights and security.
The pricing structure can also be used to encourage shoppers to a particular part of a centre or to visit at different times. Similarly, on-street parking is important to allow for stops for quick purchases, but again must be designed and managed so as not to cause obstruction or congestion which would deter people from using the centre. Surprisingly, parking availability scored relatively well across the board in our interviews, receiving an average score of 4/5 (where 5=Strong) in all regions except the Midlands (2/5). The implication is that, in the sample towns analysed, the availability of parking was generally quite good but that parking charges were not providing a level playing field with out-of-town retail.
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The beyond retail by Mark Williams is a good read.We need to stop moaning about empty shops and find an alternative use for them.



I've always wanted to open a shop, it would have a small museum in the back - something that I have been collecting pieces for. However, the business rates for native Britains in Hereford are so high that it can only be a pipe dream.


I think there should be shop-genre regulation. Last I counted (about Jan/Feb) there were 8 foreign food shops in Eign Gate. EIGHT! Apparently pointing this out makes me racist, but come on, if that was 8 sex shops or 8 fish and chip shops in such a small place, people would soon be complaining that it was too many.


As I've said many many many times on the HT, you only have to look at where the developments are being made and whats being left to rot to see that the ultimate goal of those in charge is to MOVE the centre of Hereford to the OLM


Eign Gate, Widemarsh Street, Edgar Street, OLM all developed


Broad Street development - cancelled

Riverside developments - cancelled

Left Bank - left to rot.

River Island - left to rot


They have very clearly given up with the historic, quaint features of Hereford and are starting again from scratch with a shiny new OLM. 

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Well it bothers me. It bothers me a great deal. It bothers me that the money gathered in this area of our retail sector is moreoften than not, not recycled within our economy. That bothers me. It clearly bothers Biomech and it should bother anyone who has a faint understanding of economics and how the 'money go round' affects us all.

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Bobby, absolutely agree....I refuse to not walk the streets of where I live, and I continue to shop as much as I can in town.But it feels like a losing battle at the moment.

We don't just need to reclaim our streets- we need to reclaim our City!! This council may have let the rot set in, but I strongly feel that we can turn it around - wether that's in my lifetime or not is up for discussion!

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Well it bothers me. It bothers me a great deal. It bothers me that the money gathered in this area of our retail sector is moreoften than not, not recycled within our economy. That bothers me. It clearly bothers Biomech and it should bother anyone who has a faint understanding of economics and how the 'money go round' affects us all.

Pretty narrow minded if you think they all send their money back home.

We forget that the way we used to do our shopping started to decline with the birth of supermarkets.The internet has taken its toll on shops in the last 10 yrs. We the consumer are to blame for empty shops 

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Hello Will, a recent survey commissioned by some people cleverer than me, produced some conservative estimates concerning migrants working in the United Kingdom. From International Money Transfers they've calculated that every month, on average, every single migrant sends home, to his or her home Country within the EU, between £300 and £350 each month. That works out at nearly five billion pounds every single year.

Try and think of this enormous sum of money as gold bullion. Think of it as wealth. Think of it as money earned from our economy but spent in some far off place. This economic model, which we are following, is deeply flawed and highly unsustainable. For an economy to flourish, its wealth, those gold bullion ingots that I've mentioned, need to be spent within our economy.

Look....You employ me to pick some fruit. I work hard and you pay me. You pay me as little as possible because Im prepared to work for as little as possible. To help me subsidise my low wage, I move into a rented house that's full of migrants. We all share the high rent and it makes my low wage easier to accept. At the end of the week, I go home to my house that's full of friends doing and thinking exactly the same as me. I keep some of my money. Enough to live on and enjoy myself in a foreign land. The rest I send home.

Now Will, imagine a lot of people doing that. Multiply it by a factor of thousands. I go back to work and I continue to pick your fruit but, because you notice that people ain't buying as much fruit as they used to because the levels of disposable income have shot down in Hereford, you decide you ain't got the money to invest in new machinery and consequently your business can't grow.

Then you decide to sack me because you've just learned that some lovely Romanian and Bulgarian people will pick your bloody fruit and accept less wages than bloody me. Meanwhile, you've sacked me, I go to Citizens Advice and they direct me to sign on as unemployed. This then means I can't send home as much money as I'd like to and I've got less disposable income than I had before. In the meantime, because levels of disposable income have dropped, loads of other shops are closing because they've yet to learn the lesson. To survive in business you've gotta have very low overheads and you need to share your rent with ten others.

Mind, this decision ain't helpful to the bin man, because now, instead of picking up one bin bag from a house, they have to collect twenty bin bags that now places a strain on public services.

The bin man, who's getting on in years, developers a prolapsed bloody disc, his back seizes up which means he goes sick and he's now laid up in a Hospital bed in a ward that's over run with other public service workers who've suddenly found they are working harder than they once did.

What'd you think Will?

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Pretty narrow minded if you think they all send their money back home.




I can say from first hand experience that while migrant workers did send money back to their families abroad, the money they earnt WAS also spent with local businesses 5-10 years ago. However, as more and more of the summer workers began to stay - again speaking from first hand experience - we noticed a SUBSTANTIAL drop in foreign customers in the retail market. 


With the introduction of a vast number of foreign food shops in the city this now means that;


The shop keepers use their UK profits to pay foreign suppliers and import foreign food goods

The migrant workers use there UK wages to buy said foreign foods


And the cycle repeats, each time a little more of the money initially generated in the UK is bleeding out.


There is clearly a demand for the foreign food shops, however that doesn't negate the simple economic fact that the money is leaving the country.

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I would always rather see shops used than left empty, and I really like the East European shops that have opened, it adds to the mix! What we need in Hereford is the right mix/balance. That means Independant shops, a selection of High Street/chain stores, and a revival of the quirky shops...not so many of those around now sadly.

Anyone remember the Kasbah?

It was great. With the demise of The Dinosaur Market, there are ,well no, "quirky" ones left!!

We have some great coffee shops, and the regular markets are a definate draw.

Yes...getting the mix right is key!

I love Megillelands idea of having more green space within the Town area...this could really be utilised for music, social gatherings,or just somewhere nice to eat your spicy bean burger!

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Church Street is how it should be done - it's fabulous!

I travel around in my little camper van, and when I mention to folk I live in Hereford, if they have visited our City, Church Street and the Farmers Market/Butter Market, are usually the highlights of High Town for them.

A few years back, Left Bank also used to get mentioned a lot....many are surprised when I tell them how that is looking these days.

"But it was beautiful" they say, with bemused expressions on their faces.

I can only agree...it was.

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In The Independent today:


High streets 'are being failed by planning law'

Government rejects claim by a new study that small businesses are being sacrificed to big out-of-town developments – in spite of Town Centre First policy
Britain's beleaguered high streets are still failing despite the Government's much-vaunted Town Centre First policy, which pledged to protect small independent shopkeepers from out-of-town shopping developments, new research claims.
The study found that more than three-quarters of new retail space approved since the national planning laws came into force last year have been located outside of town centres – exactly the opposite of what the legislation was created for. The study used a sample of 50 planning applications and found that of those approved more than 70 per cent were outside of town centres and 16 per cent were on the edge of towns.
The findings came as ministers and MPs from all parties yesterday took part in Small Business Saturday to mark the UK's first celebration of small firms. The 18-month long independent study was commissioned by a group of local shop organisations, including the Association of Convenience Stores, the Federation of Small Businesses, Town and Country Planning Association and the British Independent Retail Association. They have written to Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, calling for intervention to ensure that applications are blocked when they fail planning tests.


I wonder what the figures for Hereford City are?


Extract from Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement 2013 speech last week

But Mr Speaker, there is one group of businesses that have found the recession especially hard – as it has coincided with a rising challenge from the internet that is only getting stronger.
These are our local retailers – the shops, the pubs and the cafes that make up our high streets across Britain.
With Small Business Saturday this weekend, I want the government to do all it can to help them.
We’re already changing the planning rules to help town centres compete.
To get the vacant shops that blight too many town centres to open again, I am introducing a new reoccupation relief that will halve the rates for new occupants.
But Mr Speaker, we can do more, and I want to thank my Honourable Friends for Wolverhampton South West, Nuneaton, Hastings and Rye and many others for their campaign.
Like them, I also want to help those who have struggled hard on our high streets – often working long hours for not enough in return.
So I can announce today that for the next two years every retail premise in England with a rateable value of up to £50,000 will get a discount on their business rates.
This discount will be worth £1000 off their bills.
This is what we offer.
Business rates capped.
For the smallest firms, no rates at all.
And help for the high street.
A thousand pounds off for small shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants across our country.
The people in these businesses epitomise the hardworking values this government supports.
And we’re backing Britain’s businesses all the way.
Will this make a difference to small businesses when the business rates are so high?

Out-of-town Tesco defeated thanks to NPPF

Supermarket giant Tesco has lost an appeal to build a new out-of-town store in Basingstoke.
The retailer had sought to overturn a decision made last July by the local authority to refuse planning permission. But after a recent planning enquiry, planning inspector Ken Barton said he refused the proposal because it would affect nearby shops – and commented that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) justified the refusal.
Barton said: “There would be a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the nearby Brighton Hill District Centre. In such a circumstance paragraph 27 of the Framework indicates that the proposal should be refused.â€
He also commented that the plans failed the sequential test (from the NPPF) for retail applications that are not in an existing centre or in accordance with an up-to-date local plan.
Action for Market Towns (AMT) has tracked and influenced the policy debate around putting town centres first for many years because of the adverse effect that out-of-town development can have on high street vibrancy in small towns.
"for retail applications that are not in an existing centre or in accordance with an up-to-date local plan". What is the position regarding Hereford City centre?
See page 13 
2. Ensuring the vitality of town centres - sections 23 to 27



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  • 1 month later...

Debate about On Street Parking Charges on BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio now (Wednesday 5th February 2014) or hear it later on iPlayer Radio if you missed it.


I don't know if it was debated more than once today on BBC H&W but it was discussed after 4 PM today on the Andrew Easton show. Not a great deal of content in it that I didn't already know but I did contact the show to point out that I didn't think any consultation was needed over on street car park charging as I am not aware of any retailer wanting it and a poll of 453 people on the Hereford Times website came back with 84% of people opposed. Seems pretty conclusive. If the views of the Community are to be listened to. 

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