Press release

Seven of Britain's leading high streets crowned winners in national competition

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Retailers and local traders across Britain were today celebrating as their high streets were crowned top of the shops (8 November 2014).

The national Great British High Street competition, launched by the Future High Street Forum, celebrates the achievements of local people in making their high streets great places to live, work and shop.

The winners were selected across a range of categories for their ability to innovate, collaborate and adapt to changing consumer habits.

Judges visited 21 shortlisted areas and the winners are:

  • City – The Norwich Lanes
  • Coastal – Colwyn Bay
  • Market – Belper (chosen also as overall high street champion)
  • Local centre – Barnoldswick
  • Village – Broxburn
  • Town centre – Wantage
  • London – Kingston

People can show their support for their local high street on Twitter using #GBHighSt or by visiting thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Britain’s high streets have a long and proud history - and a special place at the heart of many communities. This competition celebrates the excellent work that is reinvigorating many of our high streets and highlights ideas that other places can use.

High streets are an important part of our long-term economic plan to help communities reach their full potential, create new opportunities and secure a brighter future for people across Britain. Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who entered the competition.

High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said:

We were really impressed with how people have thrown down the gauntlet for the Great British High Street and shown what’s possible on the nation’s shopping streets. Communities, traders and businesses are absolutely fizzing with bright ideas and initiatives to make our high streets great places to work, shop and live. I want to extend my congratulations to all of them.

It’s fantastic to see the team-work and energy that people are putting in to our high streets and this commitment to innovation and collaboration really shone through in all the finalists.

Watch Penny Mordaunt’s message about the winners of the Great British High Street competition:

DCLG youtube.

Simon Roberts, Managing Director, Health and Beauty UK and Republic of Ireland, Alliance Boots, and Future High Streets Forum Co-Chairman said:

Many congratulations to all of the winners and short listed finalists who have shown just what is possible on our Great British High Streets. We were really impressed by the spirit of partnership, and the passion and commitment shown in all of the entries to this years’ competition.

Communities really care about their local high streets and are demonstrating right across the UK just how committed they are to transform their own high street to become ‘go to’ destinations for all. This commitment to local partnership, and the high level of innovation and collaboration, shone through in all of the finalists.

The winners will receive a share of prize money and support from a fund worth £50,000 as well as dedicated support and mentoring from industry experts, sponsored by Boots, Costa Coffee, BIRA, Post Office and Marks and Spencer. This could range from one to one coaching or advice on creating business plans, to workshops on digital marketing.

There were over 135 entries from across the UK – more than a third of local town teams – and they revealed new and inventive ways to boost high streets. These ideas will be shared with other areas. There was a fantastic response to the competition on social media with communities posting photos, tweeting and really celebrating their high streets.

A recent report by Southampton University found that far from struggling, innovations like click-and-collect are starting to bring life back to high streets. The report found people are now doing more top-up grocery shopping and visiting town centres for many reasons and not just to shop.

The government is committed to supporting high streets as part of its long-term economic plan and has provided local shops and businesses with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.

Listen to Penny Mordaunt congratulating the winners in the Great British High Street competition 2014.

Local businesses to play greater role in high street resurgence

Local firms and small businesses, working in partnership with local authorities, are also getting more powers to play a greater role in decisions relating to their high street such as running cleaning contracts, contributing to local planning committees and avoiding in some areas being double charged for night time policing – a consequence of supporting policing through the payment of the Late Night Levy and their Business Improvement Districts fee.

Business Improvement Districts are comprised of local businesses and shops working together to support high street regeneration. They have to be endorsed in a referendum of local businesses.

The minister said the increasing role of these business partnerships was great acknowledgement of their successful role in collaborating with councils and other groups to revitalise high streets and delivering town centre strategies such as quirky shopping events to free fitness classes and practical loyalty cards which all help to bring people into our town centres.

The Heart of London, Lifford and Altrincham were also named as the latest areas to receive £26,000, £30,000 and £40,000 respectively to create new business partnerships from the government’s Business Improvement Districts loan fund.

Further information

Summary of winners

City category winner – Norwich Lanes

The Norwich Lanes Association, working in partnership with traders and Norwich Business Improvement District has developed a strong brand and presence in the city. Judges were impressed with the enthusiasm and passion of the volunteer ambassadors, and their holding of exciting events for shoppers. The Association demonstrated real innovation in using digital tools, such as the Droplet, a mobile payment service which allows people to buy goods on the high street using their smartphone – giving a much needed boost to small traders.

Coastal category winner – Colwyn Bay

Colwyn Bay’s thriving town centre is looking to the future whilst embracing its heritage. The judges were impressed with the Town Team’s collaboration with Colwyn Bay Townscape Heritage Initiative aimed at regenerating and enhancing the 19th century distinctiveness of Colwyn Bay. The Town Team’s work is having a real impact, with the number of visitors to the town rising by 30% and since 2012, 52 new shops opening and 22 businesses being expanded or refurbished.

Local centre winner – Barnoldswick, Lancashire

Barnoldswick, a traditional small town shopping area in Pendle, Lancashire, has taken a range of positive action to halt the decline resulting from the closure of all of the local pubs and many vacant shops. The judges’ attributed Barnoldswick’s success to the outstanding collaboration between local partners, coupled with a huge sense of community pride. They highlighted the use of the market space for multiple events including ‘Bands on the Square’, a free 3 day live music festival of local talent. The area’s economy is now benefiting from additional footfall, and vacancy rates have been substantially reduced.

Market town winner – Belper, Derbyshire

Judges felt Belper made an outstanding application and were an exemplar in how areas can transform themselves from a successful town centre to a go-to destination for locals and visitors alike.

The majority of ideas and innovations pouring in from Belper Vision have been taken forward by volunteers, and judges were impressed with the level of their personal involvement and collaboration. Initiatives include working with a public transport operator to provide branded buses on routes via Belper and replanting in the old Railway Station, as well as delivering a youth market, pop up shop and community space. The Belper Ambassadors scheme involves over 80 local individuals, predominantly retailers, who are training to be local ambassadors so they can inform visitors of all Belper has to offer.

A rapidly declining vacancy rate is a testament to the success of these initiatives.

Belper was also named the overall champion high street winner.

Village category winner – Broxburn, West Lothian

The judges were impressed with the collaboration between the council and local partners to create a Business Gateway Shop in the centre of Broxburn. The Gateway brings together services for business, employment, and financial advice, to deliver an integrated package of support to the local community. The judges thought the project provided an outstanding example of helping new and existing business, while providing employable skills to individuals. The shop also provides meeting rooms for community groups and businesses to use. Other initiatives include working with local schools to produce public artwork reflecting Broxburn’s industrial past.

Town Centre Winner – Wantage, Oxfordshire

The judges were impressed with the strength of local partnership working resulting in the complete transformation of the town centre. Initiatives include the launch of a Buybox delivery locker allowing click and collect facilities and pop up shops with over 60 businesses trying out retailing – 5 of these have now gone on to have permanent shops in the town. The town has also introduced live public performances in the market place every Saturday morning, community events and the Wantage & Grove loyalty card scheme for all town businesses.

The judges were also impressed with their approach taken to fill vacant shops by analysing consumer preferences so they could ensure the sustainability of the businesses coming onto the high street.

London category winner – Kingston, Market Place

Kingston council and Kingstonfirst Business Improvement District have approached their town centre regeneration by utilising the potential of Kingston’s Ancient Market and the outlets in its town centre. To do this the market was redesigned by Tonkin Liu architects and the variety of its produce was increased. A ‘pop up’ element was added to ensure its offering remains fresh and to provide entrepreneurs with somewhere to test innovative retail ideas. The landscape was redeveloped to create a piazza style space that is now a vibrant hub for the community.

This revitalisation along with a clear marketing and digital campaign has resulted in a surge in footfall to both the market and retail outlets. The judges described the clear vision and strategy of the Business Improvement District as faultless and were impressed by the huge impact of the transformation on the vibrancy of the town. Kingston were also praised for tackling challenges around the early evening economy which has been recognised through the awarding of Purple Flag status.

Business Improvement Districts

A Business Improvement District is a defined area within which the local businesses have voted to invest collectively to improve their high street. The government is committed to supporting this business model which is a tried and tested approach in high street regeneration, used in towns and cities across the world.

See the outcome of the review of Business Improvement Districts.

See further information and guidance on Business Improvement Districts.

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