Graham Ruddick is exactly right when he suggests that 2017 could be the “most seismic year ever in store for the high street” and an alternative vision may be needed as consumers turn to online shopping.
While I understand a housing-led scenario may not be viable for every high street across the country, for many it could prove the change needed.
Retail is an important element of a thriving town centre, but it’s not sufficient. Instead, we should be focused on finding the right ‘local recipe’, and this means acknowledging that a different mix of housing, retail, leisure and community space is right for different areas.
Unfortunately, the growth of out-of-town retail complexes has led many retailers to relocate. Creating vibrant communities in town centres could entice businesses back and act as a catalyst for regeneration.
Encouraging residential development in town centre sites can help underpin demand for retail, generate footfall and offer greater potential to introduce resident spending power in town centres.
We are currently putting this vision into action by converting the former Tyrers department store building in St Helens, Merseyside, into a mixed-use scheme with housing and a commercial unit for retail or leisure use.
Having lain empty for a year, the vacant building was an eyesore on the high street, but under our plans it will contribute towards the economic viability of the local community and address the need for new housing in the area.
Once the hub of the community, high streets are now more commonly associated with vacant, boarded-up shops. Creating vibrant residential hubs in town centres could be the long-term vision our high streets need.
Paul Nicholson, managing director, Luxor Group