A couple of trends stand out as having particular relevance for bringing new life to the High Street. A new report from consultancy, P-Three, looks at the potential for foodhalls to repopulate some of the slew of High Street vacant space. It comments: “In the past year the value of communal, local spaces has rocketed as we now appreciate the ability to interact with friends, family, colleagues and even strangers in a way we perhaps didn’t before”.
Obviously people that like hyphenation, P-Three says that ‘F-Hubs’ – a new generation of foodhalls – will tap into “a rediscovered sense of local-ness brought on by the pandemic and merge fresh food with arts, fitness/wellness and other community uses”. The report estimates that these new hubs could generate demand for around 3m sq ft of space.
A changed vision of the High Street with the emphasis less on pure retail is certainly going to be key if life is going to be breathed back into many town centres.
In this context, a measure first taken in response to the pandemic could also bring new demand for High Street space. NHS England plans to set up a network of new “one-stop shops” where patients will be able to have scans closer to home rather than having to go hospital.
People awaiting a CT or MRI scan will be able to have one on the High Street. The centres were initially established to reduce the risk of patients getting Covid-19 in hospital, but will now have a long-term role to play in speeding up the time it takes get diagnostic testing.
These health hubs would open six days a week and could be located in shops space for which there was no longer retailer demand or in shopping centres.
In harness with a relaxation of planning system – which puts alternative uses in much closer reach – the introduction of homes, health, foodhalls, education and flex office space together with a rationalised retail scene can begin to bring new relevance to many UK High Streets.