Towns in the South West need to be brave, to work in partnership and to fully celebrate their identity in order to deal with the challenges of the future, according to a major new business-led report.
The FSB team in the South West have produced a wide-ranging report which urges towns to move away from being an ‘identikit’ of one another, to encourage local pride and to embrace digital initiatives to boost a high street and town centre fight back.
Examples of successful initiatives which have helped support local town centres were highlighted in every corner of the South West with innovative work in Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon and Somerset all spotlighted.
The report entitled ‘Freedom, Funding and Fearlessness,’ suggests that identity, digital promotion, keeping things local, collaboration and regeneration are the key themes that can drive success for towns in the region.
It says towns need the freedom to work out what they need, the funding to support new initiatives and that sense of fearlessness to see how digital innovation and hybrid models can improve their visibility and appeal to residents and tourists alike. And it also urges everyone involved in a town to come together, work together and be ambassadors for their town.
The FSB’s South West regional chair, Lee Nathan, said that the vision behind the report was to encourage small businesses operating within local towns to take ownership and feel that they can be part of the solution to help drive change.
“FSB gives a voice to small businesses and our members tell us they are more successful when they are based in vibrant, thriving towns,” he said.
“Our hope is that by drawing out some key themes that appear to engender success in a location this will spark conversations and new initiatives which will not only revitalise towns but also provide new opportunities for those small businesses based within them.”
Among the recommendations made in the report was for businesses to make the best use of their local BIDs which seek to co-ordinate and enhance local activity. One of the report’s contributors, Richard Wilcox, who chairs the South West BIDs group, said he had seen many great examples of town centre initiatives which had left him optimistic that the region could be a ‘trailblazer’ for the rest of the UK.
"We are witnessing a resourcefulness to refocus and reinvent at all levels – business, town and cross-region,” he said. “Innovative repurposing of public arenas into greener, healthier and more connected spaces are being mapped out. This is about tapping into new ways of thinking, working, living and doing things – pioneering circular local economies that all can engage in, benefit from and ultimately enjoy,” he said.
The report will be formally launched at an online meeting for stakeholders and interested businesses on Monday, April 25 (to sign up email [email protected]).
You can read the full report here.