Town Councils have no direct powers to influence the economic health of high streets but can support the need to go ‘beyond retail’. ‘Putting Health into Place’ is NHS England’s Healthy New Towns Programme. Social interaction in attractive streets and open spaces, with pedestrian and cycle access to jobs, services, shops and schools, including well-placed seating and clear signposting are important in urban design: social connections are vital for health and welling.
Nailsea Town Council (North Somerset) seeks to actively promote our town as a great place to live and the high street is a priority.
Environment: our surveys show that residents highly value living in a cared-for and safe place. We support volunteer groups like Nailsea in Bloom (planted beds and summer hanging baskets), Better Nailsea (litter picking) and employ a town orderly. Our high street has open space at either end, which are important physical and visual gateways to the town. We have purchased both and maintain them to a high standard.
We don’t generally get much anti-social behaviour but in 2017 had a summer of problems with groups of young people, and the police undertook proactive action to engage, including organised activities, supported by local youth workers and the Council. We pay for a youth club and provide grants to organisations involved in youth activities. In 2016 we replaced our redundant skatepark with a highquality concrete facility.
Facilities: Library services are having to reinvent themselves, and at their best continue to have a crucial role in generating footfall in our town centres, and we are fighting to retain ours.
In 2017, we purchased a former shop which was falling into disrepair and simply call it 65 High Street, consciously avoiding unhelpful labels like ‘council-run’ or ‘one stop shop’. What can be achieved has been a revelation, with it becoming a magnet for local groups, highlighting the importance of how venues like ours are an integral part of the high street. No 65 adheres to the idea that buildings should be comfortable, offer character and cultivate a sense of community and pride.
The Council makes grants to important annual events like the May Fair, Carnival, Skatefest and International Bike Show. We run the monthly farmers’, community and craft markets and in 2019 are sponsoring a major food festival under the banner of eat:Nailsea.
Access We are providing high-quality public seating in and around the town centre to encourage walking, and support the Community Bus to help older people. We successfully campaigned to maintain free parking, essential in providing parking for shoppers and our role as a hub for local villages.
Local councils must support their high street as best they can, investing in people and facilities and working collaboratively with like-minded organisations. ‘Return on investment’ is broadly defined and long-term including social, wellbeing and financial benefits. [478 words]