The issues facing the high street were already causing many problems before the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown. But we now face the deep scars to our retail sector and Britain’s high streets as we come out of the initial lockdown and we are going to have to be even more creative and innovative in terms of finding long term solutions.
One will be how high street landlords respond at this time, many businesses will have realized they can work from home and don’t need retail or office space anymore. There will be demand for smaller spaces and in some cases shared spaces on the high street and landlords will need to adapt and change their property to accommodate these changes.
There is also a need to really think about what each high street needs in terms of products and services and landlords will need to play their part in attracting the right people to the high street. They can conduct research with local communities through their local newspaper or run an online survey and find out what the community wants and will support!
Another idea would be to bring people back onto the high streets to live. My mum who is 89 recently moved from her small house in an isolated village into a town centre retirement apartment. One of the benefits for her is that she only has to walk a short distance to do all her shopping, to use the local cafés and restaurants and in her case visit the local cinema, pensioners Wednesday is very popular with her.
The point being that as the government relaxes planning rules making it easier to convert commercial to residential use, the companies who build and manage these retirement developments should be encouraged to do this in town centres and in the process help revitalize the UK’s high streets. This older community are more likely to use the shops and facilities on the high streets and as people are living longer and healthier lives they will be able to enjoy a better quality of life with better transport, services and facilities on their doorsteps.
There are also health benefits where these older communities are just that, a community, who will not be as lonely and could experience better mental health and less negative issues than when living alone and isolated. It is also easier to provide care and assistance to groups of elderly residents than to couples or individuals living further apart.
Whether this sort of arrangement can be encouraged and achieved I leave to cleverer people than myself, but what is certain, is that we need careful long-term planning applied to our town centres and high streets across the country. We also need some creativity and innovation applied to these problems in order for us to truly “Restore the High street”.