DECLINING town centres in London must be transformed into multi-faceted leisure hubs if they are to survive, according to a report.
The London Assembly says that introducing leisure facilities, public services and town centre housing is a way to revive high streets like Fulham Broadway, which is flagging because of the economic gloom and the increasing trend of shoppers to buy online.
Broadway shopkeepers have suffered a decline in trade and units lie empty and boarded up.
The Assembly’s report was in response to earlier guidance by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on how local authorities should manage town centres. Recommendations include encouraging markets and pop-up shops. Nicky Gavron, chair of the assembly’s planning committee, said: “London’s high streets and town centres are the heart of our communities. In an age of out-of-town and online shopping, the mayor must do more to help town centres make the fundamental shift they need to be distinctive and thrive.
“His town centre guidance needs to offer more support to boroughs than just a couple of examples of pop-up shops and novelty markets. It’s time to stop rearranging the deckchairs and start looking at a radical reinvention of the traditional town centre.”
The Assembly says public services such as libraries, post offices and GP surgeries all serve to attract people to town centres, and councils should consider implementing ‘smaller but more vibrant retail cores’, including leisure, health, education and public services.
High-density housing, especially around stations and transport interchanges, can also help, it says.
The report came after the group, Love West Kensington, was given £10,000 to reinvigorate the area and already spent some of the cash window-dressing an empty shop in the style of a boutique in a bid to attract a business to invest.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s ‘business champion’, Councillor Robert Iggulden said: “This scheme aims to improve the attractiveness of North End Road and make it more inviting to residents and visitors. We want all our high streets to be vibrant and hope more landlords will work with us.”
Council leader Cllr Nick Botterill said the borough’s three hubs were in ‘fine fettle’, pointing to Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, new housing in Hammersmith and plans for a new shopping emporium at Fulham Town Hall, due to open in 2015.