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The High Street isn’t dead, long live the High Street #4 - Repurposing for Alfresco Summer Dining
The reopening of ‘non-essential’ shops on 15 June has provided the ability for the core of many town centres (shops) to reopen, albeit with social distancing measures in place. While shops are a key component of all town centres and high streets and will undoubtedly continue to play a central role in their future landscape, a major component of town centre vibrancy and character are the food and beverage uses. Restaurants and bars are meeting places and hubs for social activity: places where friendships are forged; couples fall in love; and business dealings are done. They have a strong emotional attachment for many of us – walking into your favourite restaurant or pub is like coming home. There has been huge growth in food and beverage uses in recent years. This growth has been positive for our town centres – encouraging longer dwell times and making our high streets more liveable. The impact of Covid-19 has been immediate and devastating for many aspects of commercial life. For town centres, high streets and destinations centred around eating and drink, entertainment and hospitality, the effects have been felt hardest. This threatens the very essence of place and what makes our town centres and high streets so special. So, with this culture and way of life having been under threat, what is the route map out of the crisis and reversion to normality from 4th July? Is the longer-term repurposing of our high streets to support active travel unavoidable? And will this (weather permitting!) usher in a new wave of alfresco dining? Active Travel & Temporary Measures to Improve the Public Realm Coronavirus has brought the need to make town centres and high streets easily and safely accessible into sharp focus. For those with mobility issues or young children this has been known for some time. Where, in ‘normal’ times, you’d shuffle along a high street dodging and weaving as you go, the need for more space is now greater. Space which is often in short supply given the competing demands on high street spaces. Following a review of social distancing measures, the Prime Minister has set out that, where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means “staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission”. Providing sufficient space for social distancing is a huge challenge for food and beverage operators. The relaxation of the ‘2m rule’ is a welcome and crucial change for pubs, bars and restaurants which revolve around close contact socialising and are often constrained by small unit sizes. As explored in Steven Butterworth’s blog, Transport for London (TfL) and boroughs authorities are rapidly reallocating road space in London to accommodate significant increases in active travel modes through the Streetspace initiative. The Mayor’s Healthy Street policies and initiatives are in effect being accelerated to accommodate pandemic-based travel demands. The Government’s guidance to support social distancing through the creation of Safer Public Spaces includes a number of ‘typical temporary interventions’ for high streets and town centres. These include: Widening footways; Introducing cycleways; Reducing traffic speeds; Provision of seating areas for the disabled and elderly; and Pedestrianisation.  For many town centres, these interventions are aspirational longer-term strategies in their own right. They have potential to make our town centres safer, more attractive and vibrant post-pandemic if they gain traction, public support and become embedded in the public realm. Many of the interventions are also key tenants of town centre planning and transport policy, site specific guidance and Area Action Plans.  TfL and many local authorities have acted swiftly. In London, TfL has widened the pavement widths in Brixton to provide more space for pedestrians and Hackney Council has closed Broadway Market to traffic to creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. A campaign to make changes at Broadway Market permanent has already been set up.      Brixton Source: @EdDavie via Twitter Broadway Market Source: @Hackneycyclist via Twitter In the short to medium term, the focus on promoting active travel and discouraging the use of public transport for all but essential journeys, may mean that we end up living our lives (and spending our money) more locally. For now, initiatives like this provide a boost in confidence that our local high streets are safe and open for business by creating the space needed to visit whilst respecting social distancing. Optimising Outdoor Space: Alfresco Dining Social distancing measures mean that restaurants and bars will need to operate at significantly reduced capacity (which will undermine viability for many) unless they are able to compensate for social distancing through the provision of additional seating areas beyond their demise or expansion of their customer base through takeaway services. For one year (until 23 March 2021) temporary permitted development rights allow restaurants and cafes (Use Class A3) and drinking establishments (Use Class A4) to provide takeaway food (subject to notification). This swift action has allowed many businesses to take advantage of the new PDR and keep some income flowing throughout lockdown. Depending on the location and design of outdoor seating areas planning permission and/or a licence may be required. This takes time, has risks and is often only permitted for temporary periods (usually one year).    With this in mind, MHCLG has called on local authorities to accelerate licence approvals for the sale of takeaway food and drink outside of premises and refrain from taking enforcement action “which would result in unnecessarily restricting outdoor stalls during this period”. Local authorities are also called on to explore opportunities for setting up more outdoor markets and identify whether “closing certain streets to traffic could better support temporary markets and outdoor eating”. The emerging Business and Planning Bill will further ease the burden on operators by streamlining the licensing process for businesses wishing to put tables and chairs outside of cafes, bars and restaurants and by allowing some operators to continue using outdoor seating areas without needing to re-apply for planning permission. The proposed temporary pavement licences process will simplify, speed up and reduce the costs of the consent route for outdoor seating (no more than £100), making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside. Temporary changes to licensing laws will also allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises – making social distancing easier. In addition, proposed planning freedoms announced on 25 June “mean that proposals for outdoor markets, pop-up car boot sales or summer fairs will not need a planning application which will transform the way people shop and socialise”. Whilst the press release refers to these specific uses, the benefits are far broader – allowing use of land within the curtilage of a building for a wide range of activities and for an associated moveable structure to be erected. In London, Soho Estates is campaigning for Westminster City Council to allow the temporary pedestrianisation of parts of Soho so restaurants are able to offer outdoor seating (outside their land ownership on the public highway). The Soho Summer Street Festival aims to reinvigorate much of Soho and lead the recovery of Soho as the cultural and vibrant heart of London. For smaller asset manager or individual businesses, there is an urgent need for joined up thinking and for local authorities and/or Business Improvement District to support businesses by taking the lead in making our streets and public realm more alfresco friendly.  Internationally, many cities around the world have reclaimed streets (mostly from cars) to facilitate the expansion of restaurant and bars.   Copenhagen Source: @colvilleandersn via Twitter New York Source: @ReynosoBrooklyn via Twitter There are also innovative off the shelf solutions capable of being rolled out, such as the below modular ‘Parklet’ in Hammersmith and Fulham: Hammersmith and Fulham Source: @PaulWellman_ via Twitter Takeaways With the repurposing of road space, facilitation of active travel and reduced risk of enforcement action being taken, easing of lockdown will give rise to one of the biggest experiments in our town centres. As we get use to this new way of life, some of these measures may become a permanent fixture, making town centres and high streets more accessible, liveable and pleasant spaces to spend time in.  Lichfields is well placed to help navigate this transition through assisting with pavement licence applications, securing temporary worthwhile uses, and repurposing town centre sites to help breathe new life into high streets. The 4th of July is set to become England’s ‘independence’ celebration too. Bring on the summer. See other blogs in this series: Where we are now, in the middle of a crisis The planning response to COVID-19 High Streets starting to bounce back​

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Community goals

Community goals

Dan Di-Lieto 26 Jun 2020
For many people their football club is their life - a constant social outlet they depend on which has shaped multiple generations of families. Clubs have (consciously or not) developed responsibilities beyond simply winning football matches and the importance of their role in society has come into even sharper focus in recent months as a result of the limitations imposed on us by COVID-19. The football industry as a whole continues to bear the brunt of public scrutiny around what it “gives back” - a more recent phenomenon linked to the influx of money into clubs - particularly top teams - in the past 15 years. Such scrutiny ignores the fact that the majority of clubs have been in the same area for over a hundred years and are often the building blocks on which communities have grown both physically and socially - in sharp contrast to other businesses of similar financial scale and reach. Criticism tends to focus on the headline sums of money which flow into clubs (especially the proportion that goes to players) without consideration of the wider role of clubs within their local communities. When it comes to the interaction between football clubs and the planning system it becomes critical to challenge this narrative and communicate the real socio-economic benefits of clubs and stadia so that they can be given full and proper consideration by planning authorities and in the court of public opinion. In the first blog of this series, my colleague outlined the example of the case put forward for the new Riverside Stand at Fulham Football Club. Lichfields used our Evaluate model to prepare a bespoke infographic (below) highlighting the community benefits of local investment, employment opportunities, improvements to local community facilities, continued support of local charities and other initiatives run by, or affiliated with, football clubs. Figure 1 Lichfields’ Infographic: Economic and Social Impacts of Fulham FC Pre and Post New Riverside Stand  Source: Lichfields This type of project, by a club at their own stadium from which they have operated for over 100 years, can be considered a traditional example of football stadia development in one sense. The approach adopted to promote the scheme focuses on the established relationship between the club and local community and the long term socio-economic benefits which would arise from the new investment. When trying to further define the role that football clubs play in communities it is helpful to explore case studies which depart from this standard model. Lichfields has advised The FA on planning matters in respect of Wembley Stadium for over 20 years and have promoted a number of the community initiatives linked with the venue over this period. A recent example of this can be seen through Tottenham Hotspur FC’s (THFC) temporary occupation of Wembley Stadium during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. As a result of restrictions on the original permission for the stadium, Lichfields worked with THFC to seek consent to increase the number of full capacity events that could be held to cover their home matches for this period. As part of this process THFC undertook to ensure that they could offer the same benefits to the local community in Brent that they have done for decades in Tottenham. This initiative was spearheaded by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and was spread across a number of areas including employment, education, sport, health, wellbeing and community & social cohesion. The key highlights of the initiative were: Thousands of complimentary tickets distributed to local residents; A School Sports Programme that has delivered over 1,150 free PE lessons in 15 Primary Schools, reaching over 2,700 children aged 5-11 in and around Wembley; Major Jobs Fairs held at Wembley Stadium, attracting employers with live job vacancies from a range of industries - including Hilton Hotels, the Met Police and BT; Providing Customer Service training to young people at a volunteer matchday kiosk at Wembley; The launch of a health and wellbeing scheme run in partnership with Neasden Temple involving a weight management course, regular health checks, cultural-specific nutritional advice and a range of physical activities for over 200 members of the Temple’s community; and, The Club’s support and sponsorship of Council-led initiatives including My Heart Beats for Brent, ‘Keep Wembley Tidy’ and Wembley’s festive lights. In addition to this THFC put in place a legacy programme for the Borough to continue the delivery of the volunteer kiosk model for all England matches played at Wembley and so that the Wellbeing 4 You initiative will continue to be delivered at full capacity. Such activities are representative of the types of initiative undertaken by many clubs at every level of the footballing pyramid and illustrate how closely intertwined they are with the needs of their local communities. Both Fulham and THFC have their own charitable Foundations which drive investment and involvement locally but such support is proffered by every club. My local team Stevenage F.C. are struggling on the pitch (currently bottom of the fourth tier of professional football) but have been running a Coronavirus Community Careline to help local residents who need help whilst in self-isolation. Whilst it may seem that no number of good news stories can outweigh the cold hard numbers of what top players earn on a weekly basis, the break from on-pitch activity during the COVID-19 outbreak has helped to shine a light on what clubs and their stadia give back to communities. The challenge for football clubs moving forwards will be to adjust to the new economic reality and there are already indications that the bubble has burst (at least for now) on high transfer fees and wages. This provides a stepping off point to consider how a more holistic approach to stadia (looking beyond football) can be employed to support individuals and businesses that will struggle in the coming months and years.  

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