A number of changes have been put forward which can help Southport to recover both from the Covid-19 pandemic and changing high street trends.
The Liverpool City Region’s Town Centres Commission revealed a number of proposals which can help Southport and other towns in the region to ‘build back better’, including: grants and loans to attract creative and cultural businesses; encouraging pop-up spaces; and giving local people more control over the future of town centres.
The work of the Town Centres Commission complements the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s £6 million Town Centres Fund, which is enabling local authorities to come up with exciting ways to regenerate town centres across the city region.
The Commission, the first of its kind in the country, was set up in January 2020 to investigate how to ensure a prosperous and sustainable long-term future for the city region’s town centres.
The Commission’s report has made a raft of recommendations for policy makers within the city region and beyond, as well as establishing a vision for the role of town centres at the heart of their communities.
Welcoming the report, Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:
“Town centres and high streets are at the heart of our communities, providing a hub for people to meet, shop and socialise but sadly too many have seen better days.
“When I launched this commission, I said that our economy, both regionally and nationally, would not thrive unless success was shared between our cities and our towns.
“Locally we’ve been investing in both the present and future of town centres.
“I launched a multi-million-pound town centre fund to help empower local councils to build the capacity to develop ambitious plans to invest in the regeneration of their high streets.
“I’m really grateful to everyone who has worked on the Commission to put together this report.
“We’ll be working to see how we can put its principles and recommendations into practice.
“Despite the challenges of this pandemic, I want to safeguard the future of our town centres to ensure that they remain at the heart of our communities for generations to come.”
The independent Commission was chaired by Sarah Longlands, Director of IPPR North. IPPR North was also appointed by the Combined Authority to act as a secretariat for the Commission.
To achieve towns that anchor, belong and connect, the commission set out recommendations including:
- Encouragement and opportunities for creative and cultural businesses, social enterprise and diverse entrepreneurship, including small scale grants and loans
- Innovation in funding, ownership, design and the use of space such as encouraging pop-up spaces for community activity, local businesses or public service delivery; and ensuring vacant land is well managed and activated to contribute positively to town centres until its future use is decided
- Policymaking that puts people first in town centres – for example making health and wellbeing a key aim of policy, helping people to build skills for jobs in their local area, and giving local people more control over their town centre’s future through co-operative planning.
The focus on town centres as community hubs is also aligned with the Combined Authority’s extensive engagement work to ensure that local communities are influencing its Spatial Development Strategy, which will shape how the city region develops for decades to come, an approach which was also used to develop the city region’s Local Industrial Strategy.
The Liverpool City Region’s Land Commission – England’s first – established by the Metro Mayor to review the use of public land for community wealth building, is also expected to publish its findings in the Spring.
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