Horsham shopping and town centre management commended by English Heritage

JPCT 040713 S13280194x Horsham, town centre. Independents' Day. West Street. -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 040713 S13280194x Horsham, town centre. Independents' Day. West Street. -photo by Steve Cobb

Horsham’s high street and the town centre business partnership Horsham Unlimited has been commended by English Heritage.

In an article released to the media nationwide Horsham along with Whitstable in Kent were singled out as ‘positive examples of attracting investment, retaining character and stimulating the retail market’.

New English Heritage research published on July 8 explores the impact on historic town centres of the changing face of retail and shopping compounded by difficult economic times.

“Horsham is a popular location which continues to perform well as a vibrant historic town centre,” states English Heritage.

“The research explains that Horsham shows resilience to wider economic pressures by attracting both investment and sponsorship for town centre events, stimulating repeat visits.

“In 2010, Horsham District Council helped to establish Horsham Unlimited, a business partnership which plays a key role in steering investment by the council and attracting contributions for a wide range of initiatives which have helped the area’s prosperity.”

In response, Roger Paterson (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), Horsham District Council’s cabinet member for the Local Economy, told the County Times: “I welcome this generous recognition by English Heritage of Horsham Unlimited for its sterling work in support of all the town’s retailers - particularly for promoting the interests of both independents and multiples.

“This was particularly clearly demonstrated recently during Independents’ Day, when Horsham Unlimited worked closely with the West Sussex County Times to make sure that the town’s impressive representation of independent traders was especially well advertised to both local residents and visitors.

“I’m sure Horsham Unlimited will prove to be one of the town’s most valuable commercial assets - and English Heritage clearly thinks so already!”

The research, undertaken for English Heritage by Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners, in conjunction with Strutt & Parker and in partnership with the Historic Towns Forum, has identified a series of places across England where innovative approaches have achieved successful outcomes despite a backdrop of testing economic times.

These success stories range from imaginative reuses of listed market buildings through to town centre strategies focusing on heritage and local identity, to the successful integration of new buildings in a historic part of town.

Baroness Andrews, chair of English Heritage said: “The challenges are not to be underestimated, but English Heritage believes that local authorities that have made the historic environment central to their retail ‘offer’ can go a long way to creating an attractive and viable high street.

“At a time when people are increasingly looking for more to their shopping trips, these success stories show how investing in historic buildings and careful and imaginative use of street patterns in our historic towns and cities, creates successful ‘destinations’, places which attract people because they make shopping a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience.”

The English Heritage message to councils and all involved in town centre management is:

• People like visiting and shopping in historic areas. At a time when competitive advantage is ever-more important, a focus on town centre and high street heritage can be an important part of retaining or even creating successful places and ‘destinations’.

• Identify and embrace historic character to sensitively sow the seeds of a successful development scheme

• Small scale interventions and strategies (such as many of those in this report) can often prove helpful in addressing current challenges – particularly where they complement each other and create a cumulative effect

• Smaller town centres can create a niche shopping and leisure experience to complement mainstream shopping areas

• Commitment to architectural excellence and town planning is vital

• Focused long term investment, pooling funds from public and private sources where possible is essential

• Adapting existing buildings and fabric can offer an excellent opportunity for new town centre floorspace

• Visitors to town centres are increasingly seeking a strong leisure offer as well as an opportunity to shop.

Brian Raggett, partner at Strutt and Parker and contributor to the report, said: “The creation of opportunities that marry the historic features of towns and cities and deliver regeneration are more likely to occur in locations where local authorities help to promote deliverable solutions in attractive retail environments.”

English Heritage will share the research and good practice case studies with local authorities, retailers and developers.

It is anticipated the report will challenge those who are doubtful as to what can be achieved and encourage communities to raise their aspirations for the future of their much-loved high streets.

The report can be downloaded from www.english-heritage.org.uk

What do you think? Does Horsham deserve to be singled out by English Heritage as an example of best practice?

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