Chamber members were able to discuss the future of town centres at the development forum hosted by Newcastle Building Society.
Chamber members were able to discuss the future of town centres at the development forum hosted by Newcastle Building Society. Andrew Haigh CEO of Newcastle Building Society talked about how they are committed to having branches in different high streets to build relationships in communities across the North East. They have opened branches in Bishop Aukland as well as opening a smaller branch in a community centre in Hawes to ensure that rural communities are also well served. They are also allowing different community groups to use spaces in their branches and working both internally and externally to ensure that the North East’s high streets are dementia friendly.
The World Wheel Company presented on how the giants on the quayside development can help to bring new jobs and developments to Byker as well as attracting visitors to stay longer and spend in the region. They are also looking at involving community groups by offering different apprentices to young people in the area.
There’s lots of activity in the North East around town centres with Lichfields updating members on some of the developments in the North East including the Riverwalk development in Durham with the Odeon cinema, restaurants, retail space and student accommodation. Research from Lichfields has shown that amongst the 16-25 age group social media is increasingly used as a way to find out what’s going on in town centres, the online offer is increasingly important for the younger age group but many still want to browse or buy in store or collect ordered items in store.
Town centres are becoming an increasingly pressing issue for the Government, as RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) mentioned this is now a key part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda for the Midlands and the North. Some of RICS’s key recommendations to help with high street renewal include boosting the planning capacity at local authorities which has suffered under austerity which leads to delays in decision making, increased support for public/private partnerships and having more devolved powers and funding.
Business rate reform was seen as a key issue, with reforms to support high streets such as a reduction in Universal Basic Rates and an internet sales tax discussed as possible reforms.
With Budget coming up soon it will be interesting to see any future measures the Government decides to take to help support town centres.