At the beginning of the year I blogged 10 ideas and tips for town centre regeneration. Now I’ve been to see the last of the seven High Street Renewal Award winners, Herne Hill in London. Herne Hill received a share of the £1 million prize fund to put towards regenerating the town centre and they’ve been busy with exciting plans.
Herne Hill market is one of the main attractions, drawing in up to 4,000 people on a Sunday. The team are working with The Edible Bus Stop to design some innovative new street furniture. The seats will have planters with trees, bike racks and awnings. They’ll be portable so they can be rearranged depending on the occasion. They’ll have solar panels and lights so they can be used for night-time events. The lido nearby were so impressed that they want to use the same design for their poolside furniture.
Herne Hill have chosen green as their signature colour to fit in with their green surroundings. This simple move helps to create an easily recognisable identity for the area that can be applied to anything from the lamppost banners and maps listing local businesses, to the public toilets and railway bridge.
I asked Lucy Reynolds, Herne Hill’s Town Centre Champion, for her tops tips on high street regeneration. “Build a huge volunteer base” was her response. This was echoed by most of the high street teams I’ve visited. Work out how many volunteers you think you’re going to need and double it. Lucy also suggested focusing on some small wins that you can point to and say “We did that”. Lots of small things make a difference and lead to bigger change. The locals can see that things are improving and it also helps to attract more funding.
When I asked Lucy what the most challenging aspect of town centre regeneration has been so far she talked about dealing with resistance and the tension between the existing community and new entrepreneurs. It can be hard to find a balance between improving an area and attracting new businesses, and keeping those who’ve been there a long time happy. As areas regenerate prices go up and some people feel forced to move away. I was born in Notting Hill so I can relate to this. Although I love my new home, Woolwich, having to leave my hometown broke my heart.
What’s next for Herne Hill? South London Makerspace is a shared creative space that people can work in for a small monthly membership fee. They can make things, share tools, use 3D printers, and learn from each other. The plan is to find a permanent home for the space. Other plans include working with a local architect to make the railway bridge more inviting, and revamping the pedestrian underpass.
To see more on Herne Hill and the other High Street Renewal Award winners have a look at DCLG’s Town Centre Regeneration Pinterest board (depending on your browser you many need to be logged into Pinterest to view it).