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City centres ‘over-dependent’ on retail

The future of city centres across England and Wales lies in decreasing the number of retail spaces, a new report suggests.

Research from the Centre for Cities think tank has found that struggling high streets have too many retail spaces, compared with public space or space for other commercial businesses.

In cities with low numbers of highly productive businesses and jobs, retail accounted for twice as much space as in other cities. High numbers of empty shops are also a sign of a struggling city.

The report also suggests that a high amount of office space creates more successful retail, as large numbers of office workers provide footfall for retailers.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said the report indicated that struggling city centres should reduce their reliance on retail, instead focusing on creating a better environment for other businesses.

“Each day seems to bring a new crisis for the high street, but the answer is not to double down on the declining retail sector,” he said. “Instead, we need to re-imagine struggling city centres as places where lots of different businesses can locate and create jobs – and where lots of people want to go to for a variety of reasons.”

“This means reducing the reliance on shops, and focusing on creating a more attractive environment for a wider range of firms. We also need to make our high streets more open and appealing spaces for people to spend time or live in, by improving public realm and transport links, and potentially introducing more housing.”

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