The High Street UK 2020 (HSUK2020) project, led by the Institute of Place Management, sought to bring fragmented and often inaccessible academic knowledge directly to UK high streets to improve their vitality and viability. As part of this project, a team of place experts developed a strategic framework for place regeneration - the ‘4Rs framework’ - which includes: repositioning, reinventing, rebranding, and restructuring.
High streets and town centres are facing significant challenges due to pressures of out-of-town retailing, the rise in online shopping, and changes in consumer behaviour. However, local place leaders do not always know how to effectively respond to such changes to regenerate high streets and town centres.
The High Street 2020 project demonstrated that the 4Rs framework provides a structure to the incredibly complex process of place transformation. It distinguishes between the processes of:
In some locations, there is a poor understanding of the catchment, the challenges and trends impacting on the place as well as a lack of data on which to base decisions. In these instances, a strategy of repositioning is sensible. This entails taking time to collect and analyse data and information, as well as develop appropriate visions and strategies that can get widespread buy-in.
Other places have the data they need and sensible plans for how the town or city needs to change to better serve its catchment communities, but nothing is actually happening there. A process of reinvention is needed. Transformation needs to start! This might be through temporary interventions. For example, a major pedestrianisation scheme may have stalled because of a lack of investment. However, temporary road closures may still have a similar effect, at least for part of the week.
Sometimes there are good plans, based on good evidence and these are being brought to life. The place is both repositioning and reinventing – but catchment perceptions have not changed. People are still negative about the town or city and that’s when a process of rebranding may be needed. Rebranding includes better stakeholder communications, not just marketing and PR activities.
Finally, some towns, cities and high streets just seem to be stuck in a state of inertia around decision making or, when decisions are made and action taken, it doesn’t have the impact that was expected. This can be tackled through a process of restructuring. Either the governance and management mechanisms in the place need changing or, large scale spatial planning is needed to address some structural problem – for example the town is too fragmented and needs to be restructured around a centre of gravity that is not the town’s current designated core.
High Streets Task Force
The 4Rs Framework has now been adopted by the High Streets Task Force to support the towns and cities it works with, and supporting other strategic approaches such as the Transformation Routemap.