The Changing Face of the High Street: Decline & Revival – A review of retail and town centre issues in historic areas
English Heritage: July 2013
The health and continued use of England’s high streets and town centres matters to us all. They are the heartbeat of their local communities, and remain places where almost all of us visit every day. However, in recent years social, demographic and technological trends have all combined to clear effect on both retailers and town centre uses and character. In many places this has in turn had an effect on local historic character embodied in their buildings, their range of uses and street pattern and layout. It would appear these changes are in all likelihood permanent in many respects. This report is the product of research commissioned by English Heritage, in partnership with the Historic Towns Forum, to better understand what has changed in recent years. It looks in detail at the current policy and retail context and what they might mean for historic town centres and high streets. Town centres and high streets are at a critical point, in many ways needing to reinforce and redefine their role and function in response to huge economic shifts and a new national planning policy context. These challenges have a particular resonance for historic town centres where the sustained and successful stewardship of historic retail districts, buildings, streets and spaces is intertwined with the ongoing health of the retail sector. The report considers emerging trends and their effect on historic high streets and town centres. It also identifies and analyses a series of case studies in different contexts, where local authorities and others have sought to renew and revive their high streets and town centres.