Andrew Goodacre, BIRA CEO, released a statement on the accessibility issues associated with high streets.
There is a unique charm in visiting bustling high streets, where independent retailers contribute to the local character and economy while seeing shoppers enjoying the experience of a few hours exploring and making use of the variety of shops on offer. But all too often there seem to be roadblocks in place which means shoppers are looking even more so than ever at visiting out-of-town shopping centres and areas and ignoring what can be on their doorstep. And these roadblocks come in the form of accessibility issues.
Whether that be parking charges, a lack of buses or trains, or even not enough facilities to chain your bike or cycle there safely. So the question for us is, how do we ensure that these areas remain accessible to shoppers, no matter their mode of transport?
Access to our town centres is not only about convenience, it’s about preserving the essence of what makes these places special. The close relationship between retailers and shoppers fuels the vitality of our local communities. That’s why it’s crucial for councils to put the needs of residents, visitors, and businesses at the forefront of their urban planning strategies.
When it comes to access, the availability of affordable parking plays a pivotal role. It’s not just about avoiding congestion – it’s about ensuring shoppers can visit their favourite shops without excessive parking fees. After all, the allure of local commerce lies in its accessibility, where people can drop in for a quick purchase or linger for a leisurely shopping experience.
In striving to enhance accessibility, councils need to consider the diverse needs of their constituents. Whether people choose to travel by car, bus, or train, their access to town centres should remain unhindered. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can access their favourite shops and support local businesses. In this pursuit, improving public transit and investing in cycling infrastructure can offer alternative transportation options that not only reduce congestion but also contribute to a greener and more sustainable future.
However, striking the right balance is essential. While we advocate for accessible town centres, it’s equally important to embrace sustainable practices. The way we travel and the choices we make impact our environment. Independent retailers, in their commitment to customer expectations, can also lead the charge in adopting sustainable practices that align with the broader goals of reducing carbon emissions.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of sustainable change. Retailers, government bodies, and industry stakeholders must join forces to drive positive transformations. This partnership is instrumental in developing strategies that not only enhance access but also align with environmental conservation efforts. By sharing expertise, resources, and innovative ideas, we can create a more accessible, environmentally conscious, and thriving retail landscape.
Accessibility is the linchpin that holds our towns and cities together. It’s a commitment to the present and a pledge to future generations. By ensuring shoppers have convenient and affordable access to our vibrant town centres, councils can help preserve the heart and soul of our communities. By embracing sustainable practices and collaborating for change, we can pave the way for a retail sector that contributes not only to economic growth but also to a greener, more sustainable world.