Platform: A town centre property innovation programme

town centre

Radix is delighted to be involved with the launch of Platform: a town centre property innovation programme, which aims to make town centre property more accessible to communities and businesses.

Community entrepreneur Rebecca Trevalyan is convening the programme, working with lead partners High Streets Task ForcePower to ChangeBritish Property FederationNew Local and Shoosmiths as well as Radix. This group will work with 16 diverse leaders representing community businesses, local government, property owners and investors from across the UK, to identify and grow innovations that make town centre property and spaces more accessible to communities.

The pandemic has accelerated the decline of traditional retail as the dominant offer in our town centres and there is a growing consensus that town centres need to have a greater focus on community to better address local needs in order to thrive. Each of the partners in Platform is heavily invested in the challenge of ensuring town centre property and space is accessible for communities and local businesses, as well as identifying viable investment and development models that support this.

The Platform coalition aims to take advantage of the changed post-pandemic landscape as a generational opportunity to redesign how we organise the land and buildings at the heart of our neighbourhoods. Platform brings together individuals and organisations with experience of the retail/commercial property system, from community entrepreneurs and local government to a national retailer and institutional investor, to share best practice, promote innovations in property access and ownership, lead the debate on how we move beyond the ‘landlord–tenant’ relationship and make policy recommendations to relevant government departments.

The aim is not simply to be a talking shop, but to present practical interventions that make town centre property more accessible to communities, whether that’s through promoting a better understanding of different types of community entrepreneurs and property owners and their needs and motivations to providing blueprints for ‘social value leases’ or establishing local asset-owning trusts alongside the traditional retailers and hospitality occupiers that are already in many high street locations.

Platform partners recognise that this is a huge challenge but are determined to explore what needs to be done to bring about meaningful positive change for our town centres.

Mark Robinson, co-founder of Ellandi and Chair of the High Streets Task Force said, “Retail property was a £72 billion industry and we are starting on the journey about what comes next – so this conversation about how to place communities at the centre of this change is really important.”

Rebecca Trevalyan, programme convenor and co-founder of community enterprises like Library of Things, said, “From my experience of building green and community-led enterprises, the single biggest barrier to them taking off everywhere is the lack of access to affordable, secure, long-term property. I’m excited to bring together this group of leaders to turn town centre property into a platform to meet local needs like wellbeing and belonging. If we get this right, I think we’ll see our town centres transformed by movements of new businesses like making and repair spaces, arts and performance venues, community kitchens and gardens, affordable produce shops, cafes, bakeries and breweries, affordable housing and more.”

With one of the largest real estate teams in the UK, programme sponsor Shoosmiths is heavily invested in the challenge facing our town centres. Partner Nathan Rees said, “We all need our town centres. But more than that, we need our town centres to work better for us. Social behaviours have changed, and our town centres need to change with them, or risk being left behind. Greater flexibility and more variety of uses are needed but, with so many stakeholders involved, delivering a joined-up vision for a town centre is not easy to achieve. But one thing is for sure, the town of tomorrow must address the needs of our communities, through developing urban neighbourhoods to serve them, whilst also presenting viable development and investment opportunities, so that we can realise the true revival of our town centres. Shoosmiths is excited and proud to support Platform.”

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change and board member of the High Street Task Force said: “There is a growing consensus that if our high streets and town centres are to not only survive but thrive, then greater community access, ownership and involvement is essential. If you are a private developer or owner of property on a high street, clearly you want that street to be thriving. It follows therefore, that communities, property owners and local government working together will form a powerful partnership in the bid to save our high streets.”

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