Towns and villages around Britain – including Belper, Earl Shilton and Mansfield in the East Midlands – are set to battle it out after making it onto the shortlist for the Great British High Street Awards.
The competition to find Britain’s best high streets is highlighting new and innovative ways to boost high streets and ideas that will be shared with others.
It is shining a light on hard working traders and communities around the country and showing what can be done to help shopping streets evolve to be places where people want to shop, socialise and work.
The high street has been the cornerstone of the community for decades and today we are starting to see them re-emerge with a renewed sense of self confidence.
The Government is committed to high streets as part of its long-term economic plan and is supporting local shops and businesses with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.
High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “There is a real sense of momentum behind our high streets and I’m determined that the hard work of people who have strived to make their high streets great places to work, shop and live is not only recognised but shared with others so they too can learn valuable tips for success.
“We have seen a lot of enthusiasm for this competition and I’ve heard first hand on my tour on high streets around the country how proud people are of their streets and the value they place on them as an essential part of their community.”
The contest is being run by the Future High Street Forum and received more than 135 entries from across the UK. More than a third of town teams – local groups set up to support their high street – entered their street.
There are seven categories – coastal, market town, city, village, local parade, town centre and London.
The entries were whittled down to a shortlist of 21 and will now be visited by a member of the judging panel which consists of key players from the Forum. A winner will then be selected for each category and announced in a month or so.
People can show their support for their local high street on twitter using #GBHighSt or by visiting www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk
The winners will win a share of £50,000 prize money and receive dedicated support and mentoring from industry experts. This could range from one to one coaching to advice on creating business plans to workshops on digital marketing.
Shortlisted high streets
Market town category
Mansfield is a historical market town with modern influences in the heart of Robin Hood land, which defines its identity. However it is also a traditional miner’s town and as such some negativity and perception of deprivation from the closure of the mines still exists. The Mansfield Town Team is made up of key stakeholders, businesses & public, all working on initiatives that will benefit the town. Chaired by the Mansfield BID, the team works to raise the profile of the town and encourage regeneration.
The team’s focus is to change the perception of Mansfield, particularly that of the evening economy, and to showcase the town as a modern forward thinking visitors destination. To this end, the team used Crowd funding platform to raise the capital for free Wi-Fi in the town centre, and successfully applied for Purple Flag status. These initiatives have helped ensure that footfall continues to rise, that crime rates have fallen by 66% since 2011, and that vacancy rates have reduced. There Wi-fi has been widely recognised as a model of good practice.
Belper is a traditional Derbyshire market town in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site offering a range of national stores and independent shops, in a historical setting. The town hosts a number of independent, specialist and niche stores and includes a high number of small shops. Belper is working together with the World Heritage Site to maximise its location to support its independent businesses, attract town centre shoppers and celebrate its friendly high street.
Initiatives include the Belper Ambassadors scheme, training local shop staff to improve their local knowledge and provide a visible welcome for visitors, encouraging people to extend their length of stay and spend more with traders. They have also delivered a youth market, pop up shop and community space. Success is demonstrated by the widening programme of events, and declining vacancy rate.
Bishops Waltham, Hampshire
Bishops Waltham is a small town in Hampshire. The imminent arrival of a superstore and a shift in shopping habits threatened the viability of the high street. Bishop’s Waltham Town Team was formed to tackle the issues.
The Team has taken forward a range of initiatives targeting different sectors of the community – from “Pumpkins on Parade” aimed at young schoolchildren – to “Come Dine With Us”, a week long celebration of food. They have also introduced a QR coded town trail which informs visitors of the history of the sites around the high street. A survey conducted among traders in August 2014 showed that business confidence is at an all time high with 78% of traders reporting an increase in turnover and 89% believing the economic prosperity of the high street has improved.