Monday, June 2, 2014

News: Good leadership makes a great High Street in Rotherham

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As Mary Portas publishes a follow up to her review of the nation's high street, the Future High Streets Forum has published a report that identifies local leadership as the "recipe for success" in town centres.

Helping to accelerate the programme of local mentoring established in response to the Portas review, the forum brings together leaders across retail, property and business to advise the Government on the challenges facing high streets and helps to develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt and change.

Analysis of four Portas Pilot towns found that good local leadership was behind their successful reinvention. Rotherham is examined along with Bedminster, Dartford and Sydenham, to identify and map what lay behind their success in dealing with challenges on their high streets.

The report, produced by experts led by Jason Cotta of Costa Coffee, reveals the common ingredients and successful leadership behaviours including: local authority engagement; sustainable and smart investment; communicating a vision; and entrepreneurial spirit.

Rotherham is picked out as an excellent example of a local authority, local land-owners and the business community coming together to develop their high street.

The case study picks out how the borough has a defined plan for the town centre focusing on a fostering a different retail offer by encouraging independent retailers and reducing the number of vacant units. The plan is backed by financial grants and contributions from the £368,000 of government funding.

One key project is the heritage-led regeneration of the High Street and local retailer, Chris Hamby's plans for the listed buildings. The report states: "The Local Authority should be commended for their brave approach too, as they borrowed money to back local developers and encourage them to take on particularly tough areas of the town such as old and often listed buildings. This was preceded by a detailed review of ownership of long term vacant buildings in the town centre, and then pursuing landlords to improve their properties and negotiate on rent in order to bring the space back into use, resulting in a wave of "pop-up shops" now trading successfully and showing good signs of being able to make the transition into full trading concerns."

It adds that the challenge for Rotherham will be what happens when the funding runs out.

Jason Cotta, managing director, Costa UK Retail and Future High Streets Forum project lead said: "We know what makes a high street great and what can turn a poor one around - good leadership - so the forum has developed a way to galvanise local leaders around a coherent game plan. To create great high streets through good leadership is just one way to address the challenges faced by the high street today. These tips will help every high street no matter where they are in the country."

Rotherham town centre website
Future High Streets Forum website

Images: Hamby's

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