Town meeting series

Health on the high street: The economic case

 

The economic benefits of integrating health and care into the design of our town centres

In unprecedented times, it can be hard to look ahead to the future; to see a clear path forward beyond the haze of uncertainty. Yet despite the current challenges facing us all, we see businesses and health and social care services continuing to press on. Now more than ever, these cornerstones of our communities need hope. But beyond that, they need creative strategies to help them do more than survive – to thrive.

Where next? We asked the experts

At Prime, we know the importance of coming together and carefully constructing the change we want to see. To kick start these crucial conversations, we’ve asked for expert insights, to capture a breadth of hopes and visions for the future of our town centres and health and care services. In part one of our town meeting series: Health on the High Street we explore the economic benefits of integrating health and care into the design of our town centres.

In conversation with:

Alan Anthony, Architect & Managing Director, Threesixty Architecture & Director, Revo
Michael Wood, Head of Economic Partnerships, NHS Confederation
Stephen Wicks, Director, Fund Management, Retail, Nuveen Real Estate
Anne-Marie Nicholson, Principal, Life3A
Jonathan Lambert, Development & Head of UK mixed use development group, Savills

Our relationships with the places we live and work have shifted as a result of the pandemic. With so much time at home we’ve had the opportunity to reassess our surroundings; to reacquaint ourselves with the neighbourhoods we live in and the businesses and services that shape our communities. But has this shift altered our perception of place, and what we need from future-fit designs?

Has COVID-19 changed how you think about town centre regeneration?

Alan Anthony headshot

“I think that what the pandemic has really done is to promote localism and walkable neighbourhoods – accelerating trends rather than creating new ones. Our work on town centre visions all anticipated a mixed-use, inhabited town centre, with clear ambitions for increased public realm and green space, and for health care to be located in the centre.”

– Alan Anthony, Architect & Managing Director, Threesixty Architecture & Director, Revo

Stephen Wicks headshot

“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of the health care sector and its key workers. There appears to be greater acknowledgement of the need for a truly integrated health care system. The opportunities from increased vacancies and decreasing capital value could help to drive this type of development to make new facilities available to the public.”

– Stephen Wicks, Director, Fund Management, Retail, Nuveen Real Estate

The viability of town centres as retail-dominated spaces has been under threat long before the pandemic. To safeguard our high streets from neglect, many future planning models reshape the hearts of our communities into mixed-use areas that are both economically and socially stable. One of the key opportunities within the reshaping of town centres is to consider the benefits of delivering health and care services from more accessible locations.

Do you believe there is currently a place for health and care in our town centres?

Michael Wood headshot

“Pre-COVID I think sometimes health and care organisations were hidden in plain sight within their communities. The NHS offering on high streets, for example, was largely limited to GP surgeries and pharmacists, with their presence unrelated to their area’s strategic direction and to the economic difficulties local high streets and businesses were facing. The nature of the pandemic can act as a timely opportunity to radically rethink which NHS services could be more effectively and appropriately delivered in communities.”

– Michael Wood, Head of Economic Partnerships, NHS Confederation

Anne-Marie headshot

“Our town centres need, more than ever before, to be the epicentre of our daily lives.  Easy access to good health and care facilities which encourage us to make better use of our trips to the high street can lead to stronger and healthier communities.  Placing GP’s surgeries or routine diagnostic or therapy centres in our town centres can replace unnecessary visits to acute hospital sites or car journeys to out of town locations.” 

– Anne-Marie Nicholson, Principal, Life3A

We know that the health and wellbeing of communities are deeply connected to the strength of local economies. Increased access to vital health and care services can be a leveller for many of the social inequalities experienced in the UK. In addition, the relocation of services to town centre locations could also bring wider benefits to the local economy.

Do you believe investing in health and care in our town centres could transform the economies in those areas?

Jonathan Lambert headshot

“We’re at a crossroads, where significant challenges meet opportunity. Retail needs to be right-sized, not replaced. Evolved, not eliminated. Non-retail uses will play a vital role in the transformation of shopping spaces to a more dynamic, rich and purposeful mix of uses. There is a once in a generation opportunity to right previous wrongs, creating places that serve greater financial, economic and social value.”

– Jonathan Lambert, Development & Head of UK mixed use development group, Savills

Michael Wood headshot

“The pandemic has shown just how intrinsically linked health and the economy are – it’s not an either/or discussion. Addressing inequalities is firmly on the agenda of both health and economic leaders, particularly given the lasting impact of the current recession. We now have a window of opportunity in which to collectively address these issues and to co-develop a new economic and social purpose for our place – one that supports prosperity and improves wellbeing.” 

– Michael Wood, Head of Economic Partnerships, NHS Confederation

What other commercial benefits could be realised from integrating health and care into our town centres?

Jonathan Lambert headshot

“Retail still has its place, but we need to think of these spaces as consumer hubs that are more than just shopping and instead, meet other social and civic needs, such as health, education and wellbeing. The supporting services that go alongside health and care can help create active frontages to the high street and provide footfall. This in turn will then support other uses such as cafés, retail and other public services.”

– Jonathan Lambert, Development & Head of UK mixed use development group, Savills

Alan Anthony headshot

“The loss of retail dominance allows us to reintroduce the mix of uses that had been squeezed out of the town centres. Each location will have its specific requirements — whether it’s entertainment, cultural, market or workspace, and reintroducing town centre living is almost certainly in the mix. Senior living is part of a move to repopulate our town centres, and this not only provides services within a few minutes’ walk but helps support local businesses.”

– Alan Anthony, Architect & Managing Director, Threesixty Architecture & Director, Revo

While the ongoing decline of retail has affected many people’s livelihoods, regeneration offers the opportunity to reshape our community spaces and economies and breathe life back into the hearts of our towns and cities. Our experts share their thoughts on what our town centres could look like and the importance of sharing a vision for the future. 

What do you believe the future of town centres will look like?

Anne-Marie headshot

“Creating spaces where people can pause to chat, to drink coffee away from traffic noise and pollution is hugely beneficial to mental and physical health and means people are more likely to shop locally. If we can add to this with better and more accessible healthcare and housing options for an older generation who are under provided for our town centres will stay bustling and vibrant.”

– Anne-Marie Nicholson, Principal, Life3A

Stephen Wicks headshot

“It will vary considerably between town centres but those with proactive local authorities and owners prepared to confront the challenges exaggerated by COVID-19 will come out of the current crises better than others. However, what is certain, is successful centres will need to embrace and having a mix of uses, which includes healthcare and town centre living.”

– Stephen Wicks, Director, Fund Management, Retail, Nuveen Real Estate

Alan Anthony headshot

“I believe that the current adversities have created a climate where we can now shape our town centres to offer a vibrant mix of activities and services to meet the needs of the whole community. This will only happen if we get the vision right and we are successful in attracting the right uses into the centre. Where healthcare is in some capacity public-funded and the economic and wellbeing benefits of locating it in the centre are understood it shouldn’t even be a debate.”

Alan Anthony, Architect & Managing Director, Threesixty Architecture & Director, Revo

In the next instalment of our town meeting series: Health on the High Street we focus on the broad community benefits that can be realised from integrating health and care into the design of our town centres. Follow us on LinkedIn to see the release of our next article in July.

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