Alison Bowcott-McGrath urges UK places to ‘do’ rather than focus on ‘how’ when considering their town centre
Is a Rolls Royce the best car in the world? It could be the best engineered but it’s not ideal for negotiating the ever-shrinking car parking spaces in our places.
How about a Ferrari? It’s one of the fastest and it’s definitely sexy and appealing but not great for towing a caravan or a trip to the supermarket.
The best car in the world can’t exist because we all have different needs and we require our own individual functions. Also, if a shape-shifting, multi-functional car did get close to being the best in the world, hardly anyone would be able to afford it.
Actually, I’m not that fussed about cars, but I am bothered about UK places and their town centre. The individual requirements of each place are far greater than those of drivers and passengers.
I’m also a huge supporter of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). They have their limitations and their detractors but they are probably the most nimble, sustainable and inspirational management models for place, right now.
Whilst some of my best friends are BID Managers/CEOs, I’m sure that they would agree that BIDs not only won’t work for some places but they could become a distraction from ‘doing’ as traditional partnerships and Councils consider and consult on introducing a BID.
I find that, right now, there is a lot of discussion about ‘how’ rather than, ‘let’s do’. Have those organisations who care deeply and are custodians of place become self-serving and taken their eye off the great work that they are used to delivering?
My fellow Revive & Thrive Ambassador, Steph James (Maidenhead TCM), is a perfect example of the great work that Town Centre Managers (TCM) and Partnerships can deliver. I have a great fondness for ‘traditional’ town centre management and partnership working and believe that they very much still have a role to play. Steph is certainly able to deliver great projects and if she needs money she just goes and finds it. There are no barriers to success in Maidenhead. Any place can replicate a successful TCM model with the support of a willing and motivated partnership.
But what about the places that don’t have the budget for a town centre manager? Residents and local businesses can and still do come together to preserve and promote their place. Armed with the free marketing offered by social media, sponsorship and the increasing local place commercialising opportunities, this model still has a sustainable future. Quick Alison tip: ensure that you enjoy your volunteering and you will want to come to every meeting. A glass of wine often helps.
There is much resource online about place management and opportunities to meet with other places that it is easy to get up to speed on what is possible.
My enthusiasm for the latter two models is just one of the reasons that my company, PinPointer, is sponsoring Revive & Thrive’s Local Legends Campaign. In addition to recognising the achievements of Local Legends, and every place has many of these, this campaign considers how they work with other stakeholders for a sustainable future for their passion and projects. I recommend that you nominate yourself or someone in your place.
My advice to place-shapers and legends is to focus on the results rather than spending too much of your time looking at the delivery model. I would however suggest that you join one of the umbrella organisations in the UK to keep up to date with what new opportunities are emerging.
In summary, there might not be the best car but there is a car out there right now for you to take your place where you want it to go.
I’m always keen to discuss place so please get in touch if you want to talk towns. I will also be at the Revive & Thrive Legendary Places and Spring Conference. Hope to see you there
Founder and Managing Director – PinPointer
Revive & Thrive UK Ambassador for Places
0161 850 1400 or 07870 176949