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Knowledge economy could boost high street by £30m

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The report uses an economic model with emphasis on business services and the knowledge economy, which was applied to three example UK towns and cities – Barnsley, Swindon and Stoke-on-Trent. 

The results showed that by assessing the impact on factors such as business investment, employee productivity and future growth rates, there was an increase in created jobs as well as economic uplift. In Stoke-on-Trent alone, the economic increase per year was found to reach £30.3m and the number of new jobs created totalled 642.

Based on these findings, The Future Spaces Foundation is calling for three things:

  1. A renewed focus on bringing learning opportunities into the centre of towns and cities when considering the expansion of existing facilities or development of new ones;
  2. Greater community empowerment in the planning process, including the formation of a youth consultation panel to ensure the opinions of the community of the future are considered; and 
  3. Simplification of planning processes to enable town centre buildings and sites to be converted to uses that match demand.

Aside from the economic benefits of the knowledge economy model, the Foundation also identifies the value of community involvement in planning town and city centres in order to achieve an end result which reflects local requirements and makes high streets places where people want to be again. The panel believes this could be complemented by a simplification of planning processes to maximise the use of vacant space on the high street. 

Thus, it is proposed that the development of ‘key spaces’, which would include services, education and retail facilities for the community, ensuring that new development areas serve the community as a whole and add value to existing spaces right across the spectrum.

Paul Swinney, Senior Economist at Centre for Cities and FSF panellist said: “For too long policy makers and other commentators have focused too closely on retail as the solution to reviving the high street. But this is too narrow – retailers require footfall, and this footfall is created by people coming to use high streets as places of work, leisure and residence. Only by addressing issues facing city centre working, learning and living can we hope to bring people back to town and city centres. Then retailers will benefit as a result.

“This report shows that the combination of education, research and employment opportunities provided by universities and centres of learning is one route that national and local government can use for rejuvenating our high street from both an economic and a social perspective.”

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