Why we need urban development heretics

When shopping centre developer Hammerson walked away from Sheffield’s much-vaunted New Retail Quarter last year, it could have been a blessing in disguise. Here was an opportunity to radically rethink the ‘mall without walls’ template for city centre regeneration. Sheffield City Council’s chief executive, John Mothersole, has been quoted as saying that the next iteration of the […]

Critical creativity and the future of mainstreets

Seeing a new city is always a good way of reflecting on your home town. You look at what’s done differently and wonder why nobody thought of that back home; your eyes are more open to the way people use space and interact with each other. Meeting new people has the same effect. You look […]

HMV’s travails show the need for citizens to reclaim town and city space

My thoughts on the demise of high street photographic chain Jessops and the likely closure of HMV have been featured in the Guardian’s Northerner blog. The problem is not simply that a particular business model has become obsolete, I argued. ‘What’s broken is our own ability as citizens to share in the ownership, management and […]

At the forefront of a new debate

Our involvement in events over the recent months has demonstrated a growing interest in ideas of people-centred placemaking, and especially in the future of high streets and town centres. Julian Dobson has been a keynote speaker at a range of events, including the State of the City debate in Belfast in October 2012, and the […]

Stimulating debate, challenging assumptions: our work in 2012

If the state of the economy and society during 2012 has taught us anything, it is that new thinking is needed to bring us through times that are already a lot harder than anyone imagined at the onset of the financial crisis five years ago. Yet much of that thinking remains on the margins of […]

The Portas Review, one year on

To mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Portas Review, AMT and Urban Pollinators have brought together a range of collaborators to reflect on town centre progress and problems. High streets and town centres remain firmly on the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments’ agendas. It’s encouraging that so much local action is taking place and […]

From ‘me’ towns to ‘we’ towns: a vision for the future

One year ago, the Portas Review of the high street echoed our vision that the high streets of the future should be ‘multifunctional social centres, not simply competitors for stretched consumers’. The response to the review I coordinated last year was collaborative, and those of us who compiled it believe a positive future for our […]

Beyond the butcher and the baker: local government gets re-imagining

If you thought we were all deserting local shops, think again. Apparently nearly four-fifths of us believe our high streets depend on local butchers and bakers, according to the Local Government Association. A new poll shows just how deep this care for local retailers lies, especially among older people: Nearly eight in 10 local people […]

An Association of Agitators: the next step for our high streets?

Imagining Alternative High Street Futures from Architecture + Design Scotland on Vimeo. Where can you find an Association of Town Agitators, a ‘framework for mess’ and a high street Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Answer: Glasgow, where around 40 people gathered to ‘imagine alternative high street futures’ on Tuesday. We blogged some thoughts here earlier this […]

20 things to do on the high street without shopping

One of the best things about the current exhibition about high streets at the Lighthouse in Glasgow is the way it looks creatively at the possible futures for the high street as well as indulging nostalgia with artefacts and film clips from the past. Many of its ideas about possible futures echo suggestions in The […]