The Future of Town Centres: Death or Evolution? conference held on Monday 10 September was a great success. Jointly organised by professor Sarah Sayce, the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture's Head of School of Surveying & Planning, Dr Peter Garside Director, Centre for Economic Research and Intelligence and principal lecturer School of Geography in conjunction with South London Partnership and support from Enterprise.
The conference was fully subscribed and attended by representatives from London Boroughs, Greater London Authority, English Heritage, universities, British Retail Consortium, property development companies and local SMEs.
The keynote topic was challenges facing our town centres. Breakout groups discussed the role of the town centre, economic, civic or social?
The conference subject was agreed by all to be a vital and timely topic for discussion. Feedback from delegates was very positive with comments on the usefulness and high quality of creative ideas put forward by the speakers.
Dr Garside said:
"At a time when the traditional role of town centres is under threat from structural changes in shopping behaviour and commercial property use, the conference revealed that the future possibilities for these urban spaces are an evolutionary challenge that can be met by partnership working and civic engagement: including opportunities for universities such as Kingston. But it is essential that this process starts now, because we are at a turning point and if we are complacent then the repercussions will be written clearly onto our local and district centres in terms of vacant spaces and the decline of the public realm."
Professor Sayce, said:
"One of the most interesting themes coming through from the conference, which included two very lively delegate round table workshops, was just how important it is for those who own and manage town centres and their constituent properties to adopt a flexible approach. As one of our speakers opined, 'temporary may be the new permanent'. But despite this acknowledged need for flexibility, delegates did not universally support too much relaxation in planning controls, which have done so much to protect centres over the years. Clearly though this debate has never been more topical – or more necessary, and here at Kingston we very much hope and intend to continue to play an active part in it."
Delegates list (PDF)