Towns must embrace change – report

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Lee Nathan

A Cornish town has been highlighted in a new report calling for the region’s town centres to embrace change.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the south west has produced a wide-ranging report which urges towns to move away from being an ‘identikit’ of one another, to encourage local pride and to embrace digital initiatives to boost a high street and town centre fight back.

One of the towns highlighted is Liskeard, which is to be taking practical action such as using social media in a collaborative way to help promote local business and encourage footfall. The report looks at examples of regeneration, like Liskeard’s Cattle Market area showcasing the “Maker Project” that sets out to promote and support local artisans and provides new purpose-built business space.

The report entitled ‘Freedom, Funding and Fearlessness’, suggests that identity, digital promotion, keeping things local, collaboration and regeneration are the key themes that can drive success for towns in the region. It says towns must have the freedom to work out what they need, the funding to support new initiatives and that sense of “fearlessness” to see how digital innovation and hybrid models can improve their visibility and appeal to residents and tourists alike.

The FSB South West regional chairman, Lee Nathan, said that the vision behind the report was to encourage small businesses operating within local towns to take ownership and feel that they can be part of the solution to help drive change.

“FSB gives a voice to small businesses and our members tell us they are more successful when they are based in vibrant, thriving towns,” he said.

“Our hope is that by drawing out some key themes that appear to engender success in a location this will spark conversations and new initiatives which will not only revitalise towns but also provide new opportunities for those small businesses based within them.”

Among the recommendations made in the report was for businesses to make the best use of their local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which seek to co-ordinate and enhance local activity. One of the report’s contributors, Falmout- based Richard Wilcox, who chairs the South West BIDs group, said he had seen many great examples of town centre initiatives which had left him optimistic that the region could be a ‘trailblazer’ for the rest of the UK.

“We are witnessing a resourcefulness to refocus and reinvent at all levels – business, town and cross-region,” he said. “Innovative repurposing of public arenas into greener, healthier and more connected spaces are being mapped out. This is about tapping into new ways of thinking, working, living and doing things – pioneering circular local economies that all can engage in, benefit from and ultimately enjoy.”

The report will be formally launched at an online meeting for stakeholders and interested businesses on Monday, April 25 (to sign up email Gioia.Grobler@fsb.org.uk ) and the report can be downloaded here.