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Mayor of London funding for high streets this autumn

Future Cities Forum will be turning its attention to the plight of the UK high street in our discussions this autumn. Whether it is proper city planning or additional cultural activities, the high street will need to evolve if it is to survive.

Our 'City districts' forum this week touched on the planning of retail around new housing districts in London and Birmingham and in Future Cities Forum's 'Cultural Cities' event in Oxford in October, Lord Mendoza of the DCMS will speak about the value of cultural assets in the high street recovery post pandemic.

Is it funding or new ideas for pop-up shops and entertainment or a combination of both that will begin to provide a solution for the devastation that Covid-19 has brought to the high street?

This autumn City Hall in London is to make funding available to develop strategies to ensure that our high streets flourish post pandemic.

The seed funding by the Mayor of £100,000 to £200,000 is an addition to the £20,000 given over the summer to each individual project addressing issues such as bringing vacant buildings into use, protecting cultural spaces, boosting community business and supporting employment on the high street.

According to the Mayor's office, London's high streets have been impacted hugely by the pandemic, with a loss of over £5 billion in retail sales just in central London as a result of COVID last year. Across the UK, The British Retail Consortium estimates there are around 5,000 fewer shops since the start of the pandemic, meaning one in every seven shops now lies empty.

The announcement of the initial funding over the summer for 35 projects across the capital includes among others:

  • the Barking Town Centre Stakeholder Group seeking to transform a vacant council office building into a welcoming space and testbed model of hybrid workspace, delivering business space, jobs and event space - supporting the growth of the evening economy and community uses;

  • the Residents of Edmonton Angel Community Together group taking a community first approach to intensify the use of the Fore Street Living Room Library, to build capacity, invigorate local enterprise and develop a cultural programme which supports the night-time economy and

  • a partnership led by Lewisham Council including public services, land owners, businesses and cultural organisations to agree a shared vision for the future of Lewisham High Street.

Through the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), overall £4 million of funding will be provided from June 2021 and into 2022-23 to support local challenges faced by London's high streets and town centres.

At our city districts forum this week, Benjamin Walker who is a member of the High Streets taskforce and a director at LDA Design talked about the planning of retail around new housing districts and trying to find the right variety of shops to make an area work:

'When we are designing new city districts we need to think about the types of uses such as retail going on the ground floor of blocks of flats. There will be different uses throughout the week on different days and times of year for shops. If you have a range of shops you can 'churn' the footfall. It was done a hundred years ago and it worked then. If you can add in the greening and biodiversity, you are creating well balanced districts,'

Steve Kennard, Head of Regeneration at Hadley Property Group added:

'If you additionally build in a community hub as we have planned for Blackwall Yard in Tower Hamlets, east London, it often creates footfall for the cafe next door or the shop a few yards away.'


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