Winner - Norwich Lanes
- The Norwich Lanes are a series of mainly medieval streets, alleyways and open spaces, playing host to over 300 independent and creative boutiques, cafes and bars. The judges were impressed with the leadership exhibited by Norwich Lanes Association, describing them as a team of media savvy business leaders, who are working in partnership with traders and Norwich BID to develop a strong brand, organising a series of innovative events and marketing campaigns. The enthusiasm and passion of the volunteer ambassadors, prolific throughout the town, was another reason why the judges chose Norwich Lanes as the winner in this category.
- The Lanes Association demonstrated real innovation is in the use of digital tools, one example being Droplet, a mobile payment service allowing people to buy goods using their smartphone – giving a much needed boost to small traders.
- The judges were also delighted to see how Norwich Lanes had adopted and promoted the #GBHighSt branding – demonstrating the real passion behind this entry.
Winner - Colwyn Bay
- Colwyn Bay’s thriving town centre is a fantastic example of a high street which if looking to the future whilst embracing it’s heritage.
- The judges were impressed with the Town Team’s collaboration with Colwyn Bay Townscape Heritage Initiative to regenerate and enhance the nineteenth century distinctiveness of Colwyn Bay.
- The initiatives underway range from the recreation of a beach to attract tourists, to a range of events to bring people back to the town centre and a fantastic social enterprise which has a coffee shop and bistro on the ground floor and floors above which provide help and training for those with substance misuse problems, mental health as well as employment and social enterprise.
- The judges were delighted to see that the Town Team’s work is having a real impact, with footfall in the town rising by 30% and since 2012, 52 new shops have opened and 22 businesses have expanded or refurbished.
Winner - Barnoldswick, Lancashire
- Barnoldswick is a traditional small town shopping area in Pendle, Lancashire that has taken a range of positive action to halt the decline resulting from the closure of all of the local pubs and many vacant shops. The judges’ attributed Barnoldswick’s success to the outstanding collaboration between local partners, coupled with a huge sense of community pride. Local traders and council representatives worked together to stop the downward spiral – persuading private investors to take over 3 of the failed pubs, and ensuring others have been redeveloped for both retail and residential use.
- The judges’ were particularly impressed by the use of the market space for multi-purpose events including ‘Bands on the Square’, a free 3 day live music festival of local talent. The area’s economy is now benefiting from the additional footfall, and vacancy rates have been substantially reduced.
Winner - Belper, Derbyshire
- Belper is blessed with a wonderful history as a World Heritage Site but has much to offer as a thriving market town as well. The judges felt that this outstanding application demonstrates how much more can be done to transform an outwardly successful town centre into a go-to destination for locals and visitors alike.
- The majority of ideas and innovations pouring from Belper Vision have been taken forward by volunteers and it is the scale of the involvement and collaboration from the community that the judges found as impressive as the solutions they are delivering. These include working with a public transport operator to provide branded buses on routes via Belper and replanting the old Railway Station as well as delivering a youth market, pop up shop and community space. Success is demonstrated by the widening programme of events, and declining vacancy rate.
- The judges felt that the Belper Ambassadors scheme encapsulates all that impresses about Belper with wide take up and the willingness of over 80 local individuals, predominantly retailers, to be trained as ambassadors and help ensure that locals and visitors alike know all Belper has to offer.
Winner - Broxburn
- Broxburn and Uphall are two villages in West Lothian previously facing severe challenges following the closure of a major local employer and the loss of 1700 jobs. The judges were impressed with the exemplary collaboration between local partners believing that the collective drive not to let the loss of their major employer drain the life from the village was tangible in all the initiatives they were implementing.
- The Council worked with a range of partners to create a Business Gateway Shop in the centre of Broxburn. The Gateway brings together services for business, employment, and financial advice, to deliver an integrated package of support to the local community. The judges thought the project provided an outstanding example of flexibility and collaboration, helping new and existing business, while providing employable skills to individuals. The partners regularly review the services provided by the Business Gateway Shop and invite new partners as new needs are identified. The shop also provides meeting rooms for community groups and businesses to use.
- Other initiatives include working with local schools to produce public artwork which reflects Broxburn’s industrial past; and involving the community with proposals to change the boundaries of the existing conservation area, to protect more of the historical buildings in the village centre which are not currently covered while removing other areas unnecessarily protected.
Winner - Wantage, Oxfordshire
- Wantage is a local town centre in Oxfordshire. In 2012, there were 26 vacant shops in Wantage and 15 empty units on Mill Street. Mill St was particularly blighted as there were no shops trading - it was badly affected by a new supermarket development.
- The judges were impressed with the strength of local partnership working resulting in the complete transformation of the town centre. Initiatives which led to this transformation included the launch of a Buybox delivery locker allowing click and collect, pop up shop (with over 60 businesses getting to try out retailing), with five of these going on to take permanent shops in the town;
a community shop - the MIX - to encourage people into the town and provide a focus for community groups; Wantage Presents... (live public performances in the Market Place every Saturday morning); community events in town; the Wantage & Grove loyalty card scheme which acted as the marketing platform for all town businesses; and arts displays in shops to drive footfall into businesses.
- The judges were also impressed with the approach taken to filling vacant shops whereby the Town Team conducted gap analysis to understand consumer preferences, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the businesses coming onto the high street.
London High Streets
Winner - Kingston, Market Place
- Kingston council and Kingstonfirst Business Improvement District have approached their town centre regeneration by utilising the potential of Kingston’s Ancient Market and the outlets in its town centre. To do this the market was redesigned by Tonkin Liu architects and the variety of its produce was increased. A ‘pop up’ element was added to ensure its offering remains fresh and to provide entrepreneurs with somewhere to test innovative retail ideas. The landscape was redeveloped to create a piazza style space that is now a vibrant hub for the community.
- This revitalisation along with a clear marketing and digital campaign has resulted in a surge in footfall to both the market and retail outlets. The judges described the clear vision and strategy of the Business Improvement District as faultless and were impressed by the huge impact of the transformation on the vibrancy of the town. Kingston were also praised for tackling challenges around the early evening economy which has been recognised through the awarding of Purple Flag status.
Winner of Winners – the Great British High Street of the Year 2014
Comments from the Judges…
“The passion, sense of pride, strength of collaboration and creativity to deliver positive change for their communities shone through. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners.”
Alana Renner, Post Office
“With over 20 years experience in place management, and being a former Town Centre Manage myself, I am still astonished by the passion, dedication and ingenuity shown by people who just love the job they do and place they live or work in. Without these individuals these projects would never have got off the ground. That we had so many entries, into what is a new competition, was amazing. The fact that the judging was so difficult is a testament to the way in which businesses, local government and the consumer have really embraced the idea of supporting their High Street. It was a privilege to go out and meet so many inspiring people.”
Martin Blackwell, Former Chief Executive of the Association of Town and City Management
“Judging the Great British High Street Awards has been eye-opening, exciting and so rewarding. All entries offered so many good examples of best practice that other struggling high streets could learn from. The key has to be leadership and partnership between public authorities, local businesses and town centre managers. Business Improvement Districts feature too, but above all it is the enthusiasm, vibrancy, innovation and the ‘can-do’ attitude of all involved. I found so much for us all to support.”
Brigid Simmonds OBE, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association