UK high streets are facing an uncertain future. There is concerning evidence that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated existing trends associated with the decline of bricks and mortar retail, compounded by the uptake in homeworking and online shopping. This paper calls for a reimagining of our high streets and urban spaces - with public service provision at their centre.
- A “Health in All Policies” approach should be adopted with respect to spatial planning, with a new Parliamentary Bill setting out principles for healthy homes and healthy urban design.
- The “town centre first” planning policy needs to be updated. Where appropriate sites are available, public bodies should locate health and other public services in town and city centres first.
- Government needs to provide a clearer framework for how Infrastructure Levy funding can and should be used to support health-enhancing infrastructure, such as through the provision of new green spaces.
- Local authorities should be granted new revenue-raising powers to support ongoing costs associated with parks and other health-enhancing infrastructure. This could include through the creation of US-style Park Districts, where additional property taxes can support park and trail maintenance.
- Within local authority planning teams, increased attention must be paid to the “curation” of town and city centres, ensuring that urban areas offer a cultural and service mix that maintains their relevance in an age of online shopping and remote working. In practice, this means ensuring planning teams have sufficient capacity and access to talent, both in-house and through private sector partnerships.