Category Archives: High streets

The future’s bright, the future’s green: Regeneration in Herne Hill

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.

Portable seats

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.

Railway bridge
Railway bridge now
What the new railway bridge will look like
What the new railway bridge will look like
Underpass now
Underpass now
What the new underpass will look like
What the new underpass will look like

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).

Open for business: The Great British High Street competition 2015

With the growth of online shopping some high streets are struggling to keep up with the competition from digital retail giants. The Great British High Street campaign is about celebrating our high streets to boost the local economy by encouraging people to shop locally. It’s about diversifying the high street so the focus isn’t just on shopping, it’s on eating, drinking, socialising, housing, leisure and embracing new technology.

A big part of the campaign is the Great British High Street of the Year Awards. The competition is open to local groups working in collaboration. That means trade associations, community interest companies, town centre partnerships, Town Teams and Business Improvement Districts. There are seven high street categories: city, town, village, coastal, market town, local precinct or parade of shops, and London high street. There will also be a ‘rising star’ award for a person or project showing dedication or innovation towards making the high street a better place.

The £50,000 prize fund will be shared between the winners. The winners will also receive training and mentoring. Google will run a Digital Garage on Tour for 100 small businesses in the winning areas to help them improve their digital skills and attract more customers.

The digital high streets report 2020 highlighted the importance using digital technology to future-proof high streets increase sales.

Last year’s winners said the kudos of being named a High Street of the Year was as valuable as the prizes, and some reported and increase in footfall to the high street.

This was a fun campaign to work on. The hashtag #GBHighSt was used 4.5k times during the competition, with celebrities Stephen Fry and Beck Adlington showing their support. Some of the entrants got creative on social media, finding fun ways to display the hashtag and getting the local community to post images, videos and reasons why they love their high street.

This year the judges will take into account social media activity by the entrants to rally the community round to support their entry. The public will be able to use an app to vote for their favourite shortlisted high street to win. The competition closes on 1 September and we’ll announce the finalists in October. Keep an eye out for us on Twitter and Facebook.

(This post was originally written for the Local Digital Campaign blog)

#InspiredBy Kirsty Rose Parker, the woman behind The Shop

Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to talk about women who’ve inspired us. I’m inspired by Kirsty Rose Parker who set up The Shop in Nelson.

Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s not just a shop. It’s a community space where people can  relax and drink coffee, bring the kids, watch artists at work, take part in a workshop or just use the wifi and charge their phones.

The shop itself sells vintage, new, second-hand and hand-made items, all displayed creatively. As much as possible is sourced locally, and unwanted items are lovingly restored and sold.

The shop 4

Run by Pendle Leisure Trust, The Shop was set up with funding from DCLG and the Arts Council. Any profit goes back into the project. Here’s what Kirsty has to say about it:

How does The Shop help the local community?

We are trying to help the local community by creating activity in the town centre which will attract more footfall and more visitors into town itself. We are running a workshop programme of activity in The Shop and have just started to advertise a series of artist commissions to encourage exciting projects designed to bring people back into Nelson.

The shop

What did you have to do to get the project up and running?

Getting the project up and running has not been easy. It took over a year to raise the money for the whole project with a few hurdles on the way. Our first Arts Council bid was turned down but we re-worked it and made some changes and then we were successful.

The shop 8

What was the most challenging part?

Negotiating leases was easier than expected but slower than we had hoped. We only got the keys five weeks before our advertised opening weekend. And then only four weeks before opening the electrics in the building were condemned and then we had to carry out a number of cleaning and painting tasks by torchlight! The team really pulled together and after some very long days the Shop did open to the public on the 6 December.

Since then we have continued to tweak our stock and our displays, to advertise the place more, we’ve set up a Mum&Baby group on Friday mornings. The outside of the building has changed dramatically as we have new signage and a paint refresh to make our space look more colourful.

The shop 7

And the most rewarding?

What is really lovely is listening to people talk about what we have done here. Comments include “It reminds me of Covent Garden”, “It’s very different isn’t it?” and “Oh it is nice to have a new shop in Nelson”. Most visitors seem to love having something so quirky and unusual for their town, which has been a bit left behind in the past.

The shop 5

What advice would you give to people who want to start their own community project?

Make sure it is something you are passionate about and can still be passionate about six months later, when you are tired, or carrying heavy items, or being criticised. It’s not easy but it really is worth it. Also, plan everything out and make lists. Work from the end of the project backwards. Imagine what it will look like when it’s all done and then work out what you need to do to make that a reality. And say yes to any training courses or conversations from people who have done it and been there.

Overall, we are team who are committed to changing our community, we believe in our town and want it to be vibrant and exciting. We are a creative group and our shop reflects that being full of colour and ideas, and is a space where you can make yourself at home.

How to set up a market stall

I love markets. Partly because I’m a shopaholic and partly because I was born in Notting Hill next to Portobello Road market. Some of my favourite childhood memories involve the noise and buzz of the market. I love the food, the variety, the colour, the crowds, the friendly atmosphere and the bargains to be had! Markets can be romantic places. I once asked my dad where people met before online dating. He said the marketplace. When he and my mum first started dating they were too poor to go to restaurants so they went to a market stall for salt beef sandwiches. I recently had to research what’s involved in setting up a market stall so here’s what I learnt. Setting up a market stall can be a great way to start your own business if you have a product you’re passionate about. Many successful businesses started life on the market – The Body Shop and Radley, Britain’s biggest selling handbag brand, for example. Here are some tips on how to get started.  I’ve never set up a market stall myself so this is based on desk research. It would be great to hear from market traders – please share your tips and let me know if I’ve missed anything.

  1. Do your research. Start by visiting markets near you to decide whether what you intend to sell complements the existing stalls. Check out your competition in the surrounding area.
  2. Once you know which markets you’re interested in you usually apply directly to the market for a pitch. If the market has a website this should explain the application process. If not, try your local council website. Some markets have drop-in sessions where you can meeting the manager to discuss a pitch. Some have a more formal application process. Make sure you have samples or images of your products ready. If you’re planning to sell food, have your menu in writing. Think about what makes your product special and why you think it will sell well at your chosen market. Be prepared to ‘pitch’ for you pitch. Have details of where you source your products or materials to hand. It’s also a good idea to think about any questions that the market manager, or your customers, might ask so you’ve got your answers ready.
  3. All markets have different rates for renting a pitch so compare prices before you make a decision. The cost of renting a pitch varies depending on the day – weekends tend to be more expensive. The cost ranges from about £10 to £65 a day depending on the area and time of year. Some markets have waiting list and you may have to wait for months to get your pitch.
  4. You don’t have to have a creative talent to run a market stall. Some stallholders are crafts people selling their own products that they’ve made, but many traders source products to sell through stock websites, wholesalers, direct from makers or by scouting around for bargains and selling them on.
  5. If you’re planning to set up your stall independently, rather than as part of an established market, you’ll need to contact your local council to for street trading consent. This may apply even if you’re on private land.
  6. To sell food you’ll need to register with your local environmental health office and get a food hygiene certificate. Find our more from the Food Standards Agency.
  7. Find a mentor – someone with retail experience who can give you advice on pricing, marketing, networking and filling in your tax return. If you’re lucky you’ll find someone willing to give you a couple of hours of their time over a coffee.
  8. You will need insurance for your stall. Check with the market first as they may have a special deal for their stallholders. Will you need to employ someone to help? If so you’ll need employers’ liability insurance.
  9. Once you’ve got your stall, consider setting up your own website to promote it or use social media to tell people about your products.
  10. And finally, invest in some thermal undies! We all love a bit of fresh air but outdoor markets can be tough in winter if you’re not wearing the right gear.

Image by Visit England

10 ideas and tips for town centre regeneration

A year ago I was asked visit seven towns that had received government funding to regenerate their town centres. My brief seemed simple enough: to find out what they were doing and share their ideas on social media so that towns who didn’t receive any funding could learn from them.

Once I started I realised it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I’d thought. The regeneration projects I saw were fantastic. But many of the ideas were complicated, had taken months of planning, had additional funding from other sources, and were specific to the needs of that particular town. It wasn’t easy to find low-cost ideas that could be easily copied and were simple enough to share on social media. Here are 10 ideas and tips that I hope fit the bill and will be useful to people working on town centre regeneration.

  1. I asked Bernadette Rushton from Rotherham Council what advice she would give people working on town centre regeneration. She said: “Make sure your strategy is based on evidence.” Rotherham asked residents what would bring them back to the town centre. They said they wanted more independent shops – something different to what the malls offer. This gave them a clear strategy to work towards. Rotherham now has over 150 independent shops in the town centre and 92% of shoppers are satisfied with the independent shopping offer (versus 42% in 2009).
    Whistle Stop sweet shop, Rotherham
    Whistle Stop sweet shop, Rotherham

    Miele Italian Deli, Rotherham
    Miele Italian Deli, Rotherham
  2. Encouraging new businesses to the town is great for regeneration, but don’t forget about existing businesses. Keep them up to date with what’s going on and if you have any stats you can share with them about increased footfall to the area this will help them see that new businesses coming to the area can be a benefit to them rather than a threat.

    Orb Gallery, Southampton
    Orb Gallery, Southampton
  3. Vacant units can be livened up with artwork on the windows and doors. Rotherham ran a competition with local artists who hand-painted empty shops.
  4. In Market Rasen free wifi in the high street and market means that traders and visitors can get online.
  5. Hanging baskets in summer and flags in winter have made the high street look more welcoming in Market Rasen.
  6. Both Ipswich and Rotherham have used unique branding to publicise their town centre activities and events. This creates a separate, easily recognisable identity for the town, that isn’t linked to the council or developers, that local businesses can take ownership of.

    All About Ipswich branding
    All About Ipswich branding
  7. Ipswich’s select and collect means that small businesses, who might not have their own websites, can advertise their products online. Shops in Ipswich can put their products on the website and provide a phone number so that shoppers can order over the phone and then go to the store to collect their shopping.
  8. Councillor Michael Hyman from Altrincham has some advice for small towns: “Don’t try to compete with bigger places. Focus on what your town has that’s different. Altrincham can’t compete with the Trafford Centre but it can offer a more traditional shopping experience. We encourage a mix of uses for the town centre, not just retail.”
  9. Mentoring from experienced business people is essential for newbies. At The Maker’s Emporium, 30 artists, many with no retail experience, sell their products in a shared space. They get advice and training from a mentor to help them start their own business. Altrincham and Rotherham also offer a mystery shopping service to give feedback to small businesses on how they can improve their customer service.
  10. The Tourist Information Centre in Gloucester has recruited volunteers to greet coach parties and give them free tours of the town. This means visitors get to see places they might not have otherwise known about and get advice about where to eat and shop from a local.

    Treasure Seekers sweet shop, Gloucester
    Treasure Seekers sweet shop, Gloucester

You can find out more about what the towns have done on Pinterest.

I’ve still got one more place to visit – Herne Hill market in London – which I’m looking forward to seeing soon.

If you have any questions for the towns about their regeneration projects I’ll try and get the answers for you.