As the BBC’s Panorama highlighted last night, town centres must adapt if we are going to stem the tide of empty retail units. Every town is different, and needs to find its own strengths and vision - whilst recognising that the focus does not always have to be retail. Over the coming years I think we are going to see increased diversification, more residential use, and collaboration.
As the programme mentioned, in the 1980s and 1990s, we became rather fixated on retail uses, meaning that town centres lost their individuality and chain stores took over. Now, perhaps the balance of power is shifting, and we will see a return to more distinctive town centres.
If the UK's High Streets are to survive, they need to change as well. We might moan about the decline of the High Street, but it's happening in part because we choose not to shop there. To tempt us back and rejuvenate the High Street and its shops, planners and retailers will have to work together to build a much more enticing offer to get us off our computer screens and bring us back from out of town shopping centres.