The future of Wakefield district high streets under the microscope during summit

the future: High streets were the focus during Monday's summit.
the future: High streets were the focus during Monday's summit.

The future of Wakefield district’s high streets were put under the microscope during a summit this week which saw organisations share ideas on how to attract people back into towns and

Organised and hosted by Wakefield Council, the first ever High Street Summit was held at The Hepworth Gallery on Monday and was attended by more than 60 people.

Under discussion was the future direction of town and city centres, the challenges they face in attracting visitors and how to adapt them.

The results from the recent Wakefield Express city centre reader survey were also discussed at the summit.

Workshops were held to exchange views on how to meet these challenges and the feedback will be used to support the council’s Future High Street Funds submission later this month.

This is a £675 million government fund which is aimed at transforming high streets and town centres.

A key theme to emerge from the discussions was the importance of providing opportunities to make the high street a hive of activity once again.

Delegates heard from a number of speakers, including a keynote speech from barrister and author Philip Kolvin QC, who is nationally renowned for his work in planning and licensing issues.

He told the audience that high streets do not just face challenges from internet shopping, but also changes in the way consumers spend their disposable income which makes attracting and keeping customers even more difficult than before online competition.

Richard McGuckin, director of economic growth and development at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council was another one of the speakers, and he said the high street challenges can provide real opportunities for local independent shops with so many high street chains struggling.

Elizabeth Murphy, manager of Wakefield BID, said: “It was great to see real stakeholders in Wakefield city centre all in one room at the same time, from members of the youth parliament to owners of key businesses of the city.

“Increasing the leisure offer and the number of people who are based in the city centre are two key aspects among many.

“Communication is key, too, and not just from public sector but between all stakeholders so we can have one voice for this amazing city and a plan.

“The general consensus seemed to be that to achieve anything it has to be partnerships that drive things forward and will be at the very heart of changes.”