Pickles publishes high street guide

A handbook to help councils and communities identify the best strategies to improve local shopping areas has been published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The guide is based on discussions with business owners, local authorities and interested parties and aims to provide access to the latest data on how parades of shops are coping with the challenging economic environment, identify strategies that might help and highlighting useful tools available to councils and businesses.

Unveiling the document on 6 June, communities secretary Eric Pickles said the guidance should ‘help stimulate new ideas and innovation’, and identify tools such as ‘small business rate relief, local discretionary discounts or our community right to bid’.

‘The economic downturn has brought new challenges to our local shops and although the research we had carried out suggests that parades are largely holding their own, all too often these smaller parades go relatively unnoticed,’ Mr Pickles said.

Available on the DCLG website, the guidance claims there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and community leaders should engage with residents to create an identity that suits the local area.

DCLG research suggests ‘there is scope for a greater degree of flexibility and entrepreneurship in [shopping] parades’ officials write.

The document gives a useful guide to relevant Government schemes, funding streams and legislation, divided into planning and place tools, business support tools, partnership and innovative ways of working tools and general tools.

It also provides examples of best practice, such as Bristol City Council’s ‘creative use of a vacant local authority owned property’. The council worked in partnership with an art project called ArtSpace LifeSpace, which agreed to take on a property that had fallen into disrepair ‘and carry out the necessary renovation works in return for a 3 year lease and peppercorn rent’.

‘As a result of this partnership, the Council has a repaired and well used property and are actively supporting community arts; the artists have new premises on a secure lease; and the parade as a whole has been given a new lease of life,’ officials write.

The document follows the work celebrity retail guru Mary Portas undertook for the Government through her review of local high streets.

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