London’s high streets have shaped our great city. They support the most sustainable models of living and working and are where new ideas, new ways of living, new businesses and new experiences are made. They face a series of challenges – from digital disruption and changing retail behaviour to increasing congestion and air pollution. But despite repeated headlines about high street decline, Londoners continue to value them as places to meet, socialise, access services, shop, work and live.
It’s in full acknowledgment of their inherent value – and the challenges they face – that today City Hall publishes guidance on ‘adaptive strategies’ to enable high street renewal.
This follows a review of London’s high streets as part of the Mayor’s Good Growth by Design programme and responds to the new London Plan’s call for high streets and town centres to adapt and diversify to survive and thrive.
We have taken a broad and inclusive look at high streets. These complex, dynamic, mixed-use urban corridors ensure easy pedestrian access to everyday goods and services, places of work and leisure. They are linked to and sometimes synonymous with town centres. Yet they can stretch way beyond designated town centre locations. They play an important role in civic and community life and are vital for London’s economic success. Retail is only one part of this.
Today we advocate a ‘mission-orientated’ approach to the development of adaptive strategies for high street renewal. This means taking an iterative and interactive approach to identify and implement actions to be taken by partnerships in response to specific place-based environmental, social or economic challenges that high streets face.
Rather than alighting on a pre-conceived answer, adaptive strategies work out what is needed for a given high street and its community and then apply and test different solutions. This may lead to a new or revised asset, tech-based solution, community-led governance arrangement, design code or novel property management model.
The guidance highlights a series of strategies and approaches led by London boroughs. All are considering the problems high streets face, coming up with hypotheses, setting goals, forming the necessary partnerships to achieve them and prototyping solutions.
For some it’s early days. Others have already made huge improvements to the high street environment and related services – ensuring these focus on users’ needs.
The document showcases this activity, exploring solutions, sharing best practice and seeking to scale-up what works across London.
We’ve developed principles and practices based on what we’ve learnt from London’s high streets and the partnerships led by London’s boroughs and business improvement districts.
Local communities and practitioners are invited to use and test these in the development of their own adaptive strategies, to achieve major and long-lasting positive change.
Such initiatives demonstrate a will to work in partnership so that the risks and rewards of innovation are shared. We will continue to grow these joint resources and mission-driven ways of working to boost public value and make high streets genuinely inclusive, participative, accessible, equitable, innovative and prosperous places.
As the case studies in this report show, when it comes to our high streets, London’s communities, businesses and local authorities have shown extraordinary levels of enterprise, motivation and commitment to delivering change.
With this leadership in place, and given the right support, London’s high streets are in a great position to reinvent themselves, becoming even better places to visit, to live and to do business.
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