More than 500,000 votes were cast in the third annual Great British High Street Awards and Blackburn scored well enough to take home the crown, beating 26 other finalists.
Blackburn will now receive the £10,000 grand prize, as well as a trophy awarded to them at a ceremony in London earlier today (Monday 12 December 2016).
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said:
Our high streets are going from strength to strength as this year’s Great British High Street competition shows.
Town centres are being revitalised, with vacancy rates falling over the last year, and Blackburn is a great example of how hard work and support for local businesses can turn things around.
The strong Business Improvement District is working closely with the council to invest in the town and put on a vibrant calendar of events that has seen visitors flock in their thousands to the town centre – long may it continue.
One of the first industrialised towns in the world, Blackburn has reinvented itself over recent years with the council investing £9 million in its heritage buildings to bring them back to their former glory.
Initiatives such as Blackburn Against Crime and the redevelopment of The Mall shopping centre have attracted new businesses, free family friendly events and The Mall has shown an increase in footfall Year Over Year of 8.7% in 2016.
Other winners in the Great British Awards were:
- Winner – The Cathedral Quarter, Derby
- Runners up – Castle Arcade District, Norwich and Broadmead, Bristol
- Winner – Blackburn
- Runners up – Hemel Hempstead and Banbury, Oxfordshire
Large Market Town
- Winner – Bridgnorth
- Runners up – Hinckley and Market Harborough, Leicestershire
Small Market Town
- Winner – Hebden Bridge
- Runners up – Chipping Norton and Thame, Oxfordshire
- Winner – Falmouth
- Runners up – Sea View Street, Cleethorpes and Prestatyn, Wales
- Winner – Hoole, Chester
- Runners up – Claygate, Surrey and The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells
- Winner – Pateley Bridge
- Runners up – Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria and Langport, Somerset
- Winner – Myddleton Road, Haringey
- Runners up – Romford and Waterloo
- Winner – Stockton
- Runners up – Leominster and Dornoch, Scottish Highlands
Winners in each category will not only get a share of a prize pot worth £100,000, but they’ll win expert training from Google’s digital taskforce for shops, bars and restaurants, and a trip to Twitter UK’s London office to boost their social media skills.
The Great British High Street Competition 2016, run by the Department for Communities and Local Government, celebrates the great work that is being done to revive, adapt and diversify the nation’s high streets. It is one of the government’s initiatives to help champion high streets as the cornerstones of the community.
This includes helping local business communities adapt to the changing face of high streets with a £6.7 billion package of business rates support, cutting the rates for 900,000 businesses – with 600,000 now paying none at all.
Over the last year town centre vacancy rates have fallen. Retail sales have shown continued to rise year on year each month since May 2013 and footfall to high streets increased by 2.8% on Black Friday 2016 compared to last year.
This year’s competition saw a record 900 entries across all 14 categories, including the new categories for individuals and shops. On 18 October 2016 a shortlist of 27 places was drawn up to go through to a month long public vote.
Shortlisted high streets were visited by a judging panel made up of retail experts, including British Land, the Post Office and Holland & Barrett, which accounted for 50% of the overall score.
The second Great British High Street competition last year saw 230 entries and attracted more than 200,000 public votes, with Bishy Road in York crowned Britain’s best. Bishy Road found that winning not only boosted town pride, but also report a rise in sales due to increased footfall.