Our high streets make a unique contribution to local neighbourhoods and economies; they can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging, in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, cannot.
At present, our high streets are in crisis – nearly a third of UK high streets are “degenerating or failing” according to new research published in December 2011.
By 2014 less than 40% of retail spending will be on the high street, according to the study, which also found that over the past decade out of town retail floor space has increased by almost a third while in towns it has shrunk by 14%.
The challenge, it seems, is to re-think or re-affirm our high streets as public spaces where people want to be – not simply for commerce – but somewhere to meet, socialize, and have fun in. From this energy flows new relationships, new ideas, new collaborations – which will ultimately lead to a revitalised economy. Mary Portas, who led the study, believes that “once we invest in and create social capital in the heart of our communities, the economic capital will follow”.
Snook are working with A&DS and Stirling City Council to help make this happen in Stirling in the “Start-Up Street” initiative. The proposal is to explore how people with ideas, talents and capabilities in the city can be matched with the available spaces in the city, supported by a community of interest.
The High Street is also the subject of a new exhibition at The Lighthouse, created by A&DS which probes the past, present and future of our traditional High Streets and asks what lies in store for the various high streets across Scotland.