High streets are facing considerable change following the move towards online retail and the impact of the pandemic. However, there is an opportunity for local residents to work alongside businesses and urban designers to rejuvenate local centres.
South London citizens’ action group Peckham Vision has been shown to be successful, but can its approach be adopted elsewhere?
Local communities can play an important role in the regeneration of their local centres. Peckham Vision is an example of how it can be done and in order to understand whether this model can be replicated, it is necessary to understand why it has been successful.
There are several key ingredients. First, it is a resident-led local citizens’ association of individuals, all of whom have an interest in Peckham and ensuring its success. They want their area to succeed.
Second, it benefits from the contribution of residents who are passionate and committed. A leading light of Peckham Vision is Eileen Conn, who was awarded an MBE in 2009 for services to the community in the London borough of Southwark. Having this level of enduring passion and commitment is a major driver because ‘no’ is not seen as an acceptable answer.
Third, the community has a shared vision that their town centre should be a thriving and sustainable social and commercial centre, which is a good place for all to live and work in.
Fourth, the initiative has the support of the local planning authority, both through time and resources, and this includes officers as well as councillors. Southwark Council applied for Heritage Lottery Funding for a five-year project ending in 2019, which delivered real physical, and thus social and economic, change.
Last, residents can see change and that the initiative is more than just a talking shop.
So, does this mean that community-led regeneration can work elsewhere based on the Peckham Vision model? Yes, it can. But many of these ingredients will need to be in place.
Nick Taylor is partner (planning) at Carter Jonas