ATCM welcomes ResPublica Report on the Value of Social Activity

The just released report by ResPublica, “Clubbing Together: The Hidden Wealth of Communities,” highlights the value of town centres as meeting places and calls for local and national policy changes to reflect the positive impact of social activity.


Martin Blackwell, Chief Executive of the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), said, “it is difficult to overstate the importance of the UK’s town centres, not just for retail, but in the very real sense that they are everyone’s neighbourhood.


“Almost 90 per cent of the UK population live and work in towns or cities, and nearly everyone depends on them for access to shopping, entertainment, leisure, culture, public services and transportation. Towns and city centres also act as focal points for government and public administration, hubs of regional infrastructure and natural locations for trade and commerce,” he added.


“The evidence for their importance has been highlighted by the astonishing success of the response to the Mary Portas report on High Streets and Town Centres and the government’s Portas Pilot competition, which resulted in 371 applications for 12 grants in the first round.”


The second round closes at the end of this week, with another 15 centres to be chosen in England during the summer for up to £100,000 in government funds. “The responses have demonstrated how passionate people are about their local centres.”


Blackwell welcomed the ResPublica report and said, “I think we are at a pivotal moment. People are asking the basic question – ‘How shall we live’ – and deciding that they are missing the society of others that town centres bring.” All the evidence suggests that people are happier and healthier if they ‘take part.’


ResPublica has provided a number of recommendations for governmental support on both national and local levels for many people’s activities and has given examples of how things are already being done to improve local communities.


In Dartford, for example, work is already underway to deliver a Portas Pilot vision a by developing an over 50’s club which focuses on healthy living, arts and other activities, by organising dance classes on the malls of the local shopping centre in the evenings and through planning a Scouts overnight movie adventure complete with scary make-up, hot dogs, games and a photo mementos.


Led by Town Centre Manager Lewis Kernon, this pilot effort demonstrates how professional management can be central to the prosperity and well-being of whole communities.


Dartford’s example also demonstrates that town centres aren’t just about the nine-to-five retail economy. “The importance and value of the evening and night time economy in terms of jobs, business creation and as a time for community activity is becoming better understood,” said Blackwell, who noted it is also an area of growth in otherwise difficult trading conditions in the UK’s town centres.


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