The Future of City Centres

The importance of city centres

It is well established that well-functioning city centres that are attractive to business are increasingly important for attracting and retaining high skilled jobs and workers, for maximising the accessibility of jobs to as many residents as possible (particularly those reliant on public transport), and for reducing the carbon emissions associated with commuting.

So despite much publicity in recent months over the future of Britain’s high street, the future success of our city centres is about far more than retail.  Indeed, the reverse is true: the fortunes of the high street are dependent on the fortunes of the wider city centre in which they are based.

Given national and global economic trends, the of importance is likely to increase further in the future.

For Key Cities, making the most of our city centres, while playing to their individual strengths, is vital for our local economies and for the national economy too.

Key Cities have worked with research partner Centre for Cities to gain a better understanding of the role that city centres play in city economies and what policy measures could do to improve their performance.

Report - Delivering change: Putting city centres at the heart of the local economy.

Based upon consultation with the Key Cities and others through the Future City Centre Workshop held in Brighton, the paper pulls together examples of policies used in cities from around the world to improve their city centres. The first section it sets out the importance of city centre economies to the economic performance of cities as a whole, while the second section goes on to present case studies for five broad types of policy intervention.

Key Cities city centres

Reconfiguring unattractive or weak city centres requires coordinated action and investment by many players - local and national government, businesses, public sector institutions, and developers, investors and agents. The Key Cities Group will focus specifically on these issues to explore how these challenges can be addressed in medium sized cities. 

Key Cities are the ideal ‘test beds’for government in which new policies and innovation could be piloted quickly, flexibly and a relatively low cost.

By working with some of the key organisations operating in this space from the private sector and other groups we will develop new, independent and credible research and analysis, as well as a series of tangible propositions and interventions that can be taken forward locally and nationally.

Developing city centre solutions

Our work programme will involve:

  • Working with industry experts and relevant representatives from central government, investors, developers, and occupiers to explore what needs to be done and by whom. In particular we will explore the potential benefits from Key Cities collaboration in this area.
  • Looking to unpick some of the contradictory policy in this area. For example, some policies are trying to protect city centre retail whilst others which incentivise businesses, and so jobs, to move out of city centres, are inadvertently reinforcing a ‘hollowing out’ of some cities.
  • The development of a series of practical propositions and interventions that local and national stakeholders can take forward to boost city centre growth for example prioritising sustainable transport models to help boost footfall in city centres
  • Engaging with local and national stakeholders and decision makers from the public and private sector. This would include working with specific individuals within Whitehall that can effect nationalpolicy change. This process will help publicise what’s been achieved and set out clearly what needs to happen next.