25 Sep 2018

In 2013 the Grimsey Review set out retail veteran Bill Grimsey's vision of an alternative future for the high street. Five years on, the Grimsey Review 2 assesses what has changed in the intervening years and builds on the recommendations in the original report. 

The new review highlights its key findings, the barriers to progress and its recommendations and conclusions before diving into a more detailed analysis of the challenges and opportunities for the high street over the coming years. There are also a number of fascinating case studies from around the world where Grimsey's vision has been at least partly realised.

Key findings

  1. Town Centre Commission Plans should be developed with a view to transforming high streets into community hubs (ie less retail, more leisure, entertainment, arts, education, health, housing, offices etc)
  2. Strong leadership is needed from elected mayors and/or local government working closely with the community
  3. The distinct heritage of a town should be central when developing places that people will engage with
  4. Sharing best practice needs to be done effectively so that innovation can be spread throughout the UK.

Barriers to progress

  1. Business rates are condemned as unfair, outdated and responsible in part for strangling the high street
  2. Local government in its current forms is also maligned for its complexity and bureaucracy
  3. Financing the investment required to effect this transformation is identified as a challenge.

Recommendations

The review makes 25 recommendations, which centre around three themes:

  1. Creating a more supportive environment to enable improvements in planning, monitoring and sharing information about the changing role of the high street
  2. Changes at government and planning levels to empower local authorities
  3. Smarter use of technology to attract people back to the high street.

The 2013 Grimsey Review was influential and the sequel is no less radical. In the current climate, the new review may serve as a timely reminder that imaginative changes are needed to save the UK high street. With many of the recommendations requiring changes to central government policy, a key question is whether this will get the attention it needs before it is too late.