CAPTION – From left: Cllr Daren Pemberton with Mike King, Director of People & Places Insight

Member Article

Health of eight key high streets in Stratford District being assessed to aid COVID recovery

The health and vitality of Stratford District’s key high streets is set to be comprehensively assessed during the summer and autumn as they emerge from the pandemic to see what can be done to help them recover post-COVID.

The eight key high streets in Stratford District – Stratford-upon-Avon, Wellesbourne, Southam, Shipston-on-Stour, Bidford-on-Avon, Henley-in-Arden, Alcester, and Studley – will all be assessed across a number of categories including footfall patterns, shop vacancy rates, car parking provision, public transport, retail offering and outlook, and much more.

The assessment will also survey residents, business owners and visitors during the summer and autumn. This is a key aspect of the work, and Stratford District Council is encouraging as many people as possible to participate and share their thoughts.

To complete the assessment, the council SDC has hired consultants ‘People & Places Insights’ to undertake the work, which will begin in mid-June.

People & Places Insights will present their findings by the end of October in a report to the council outlining the state of each of the eight high streets, and will provide initial recommendations on how to support their immediate recovery and how to secure their long-term future.

Cllr Daren Pemberton, Deputy Leader of Stratford District Council, said: “The longer-term impact of COVID-19 is the structural shift in how we spend our money and leisure time and what this means for ‘bricks and mortar’ high streets.

“To enable us to develop a credible long term support plan we need as much objective evidence as possible about the current health of each of our high streets so that we can target resource at each of them individually to support recovery and ensure they meet the needs of their communities in this changed world.

“We all like to think we know our own high streets like the back of our hand- but we cannot afford to build a strategy on an anecdotal evidence base. It is vital we have an independent assessment of the state of each of our high streets on the ground before we make the big decisions about how we will support their future direction.

“Only then can we plan effectively and spend money in the right places on the right things. We expect this assessment to provide that robust evidence base which will drive our decisions and support us in bidding for further central government grants.

“We are keen to see what People & Places Insights report objectively reveals about the district’s high streets to drive our recovery plan.

“It is absolutely vital that as many residents and business owners in each high street tells them what they genuinely think and take the opportunity to help shape a plan specific for their own community’s needs.”

Mike King, Director of People & Places Insight, said: “Over the last 12 years we have benchmarked over 350 towns across the UK for a range of local authorities, Business Improvement Districts and retailers.

“Our reports are comprehensive and written to inform, guide and be continuously used. We provide data on a variety of performance indicators for the towns and offer comparisons against the national benchmarking averages which we produce.

“Benchmarking is essential for 21st Century town centres. We’re not here to sugar-coat things for the council, but to give it an honest assessment so any decisions the council then makes are based on solid evidence rather than long-held assumptions that might not be true.

“We’re looking forward to starting the work, and we’d reiterate the council’s call for as many people to respond as possible. The more data we have, the more informed our recommendations will be.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Matt Joyce .

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