Making Towns the Place to Shop. and a Whole Lot More; as Internet Shopping and Out-of-Town Retail Centres Continue to Grow, So the Future of Wales' Town Centres Could Be under Greater Threat Than Ever before. James Brown, Associate at Powell Dobson Urbanists in Cardiff, Explains How Wales' Approach to Urban Design Is Helping Towns and Cities to Fight Back against New Retail Trends the Thursday Essay
Byline: James Brown
NEW retail trends like the rise of internet shopping coupled with out-of-town retail centres are having a major impact on our towns and cities across the country as they come under increasing pressure to attract people to use them.
Town centres emerged out of a need to buy essential goods and services, but are now increasingly being seen as an optional extra.
According to research, the Welsh lead the way when it comes to online bargain hunting and we're spending just shy of two hours' shopping or browsing online every week. The suggestion is that more shoppers are surfing the web for bargains to ride out the credit crunch.
It's not only young people - everyone is starting to realise the benefits of shopping online with store owners using more opportunities to continue to drive growth in this area in the market.
In order not only to survive but also to thrive, town centres need to fight back. And this is where urban design can help.
We need to make town centres a pleasant and enjoyable environment in which to be, so that shopping becomes a pleasant experience, as opposed to a chore that needs to be done.
This involves a clean, safe and attractive public realm that is designed to put pedestrian needs first while at the same time creating a sense of place.
Anotherway to help combat the decline of the town centre is to emphasise its role beyond the retail function, by providing alternative reasons to visit, whether this is a focal point for meeting and socialising, or the sense of cultural identity and civic pride a town centre can bring.
Urban design therefore has a huge role to play in the future of our town centres as the need to provide a quality environment grows.
We have to take a strategic approach to planning and designing our town centres, so that they are vibrant, interesting and exciting places in which people want to spend time and will for years to come. Designers are currently developing a good practice guide that will help to shape the future of 11 town centres in the South Wales Valleys. …