The Future of British High Streets and Town Centres

13 June 2018

The British high street is one of our nation’s most characteristic urban features, and acts as a common public asset for all residents. However, for a number of years, the sustainability, vibrancy and prosperity of high streets nationwide have been in jeopardy. Approximately 14 outlets per day closed in the first half of 2017 (Local Data Company), whilst footfall on UK high streets decreased by 4.6% over the last year (British Retail Consortium). The retail workforce has also contracted to 3 million from approximately 3.2 million in 2008, with the BRC predicting a further reduction of 900,000 by 2025. Whilst the determinants of this trend are manifold, online shopping has unquestionably challenged high street retailers in transforming traditional consumer habits. On average, Britons spend £4,611 per person per year online, more than any other nation (The UK Cards Association, 2017).

In response, the Government announced a series of measures aimed at assisting businesses and underpinning their future success. In April 2017, the Chancellor’s business rate revaluation delivered “the biggest ever cut in business rates”, with a £6.7bn 5 year package. Nearly three quarters of businesses saw no change or a fall in bills, whilst 600,000 businesses were exempted from business rates altogether. In addition, business rates will be linked to RPI rather than CPI from 2020, saving businesses approximately £370 million. In January 2018, Public Health England released, Healthy High Streets, publishing a series of recommendations on promoting and improving the health of residents and wider communities through good place making in urban settings.

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