* indicates required

Town picked for Community Improvement District pilot

Rock ‘n’ roll: Niche vehicle maker David Brown Automotive has produced a special edition of only 60 of its Mini Remastered models to celebrate the 60th anniversary of iconic music brand Marshall Amplification, which has been manufacturing amplifiers in Bletchley since the late 1960s.

Wolverton has been chosen to pilot a new initiative backing community businesses that trade for the benefit of local people.

The town is one of five chosen to trial the Community Improvement Districts scheme in a bid to revive England’s high streets. New government figures show that visitor numbers to the nation’s high streets remain 14 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels.

Community Improvement Districts already operate in Scotland and build on Business Improvement Districts, where businesses collaborate to effect change in an area in order to inspire regeneration and boost business. Community Improvement Districts aim to provide local people and community organisations, as well as businesses, a say over the strategic direction of local high streets in order to create sustainable town centres for the future.

Marie Osbourne, director and chief executive of the non-for-profit community benefit society Future Wolverton, said: “ After over 30 years of community campaigning, the redevelopment of Wolverton’s town centre finally begins this year. But physical regeneration is only the beginning – the real test will be the extent to which the community can capitalise upon the public sector investment and lead the development of a vibrant High Street. We very much hope that the strengthening of local partnerships through the creation of a Community Improvement District will support this work.”

Involving the community in shaping a town centre increases residents’ sense of ownership of and responsibility for their high street. The arrival of community organisations on the high street can deliver new activities, services and places for people to meet, all of which leads to a stronger local economy, says the organisation behind the CID scheme Power to Change.

To page 4 >>
A charitable trust, it was created in 2015 to support community businesses with a £150 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund.

The pilot schemes began last month. Wolverton, along with Ipswich, Stretford in Greater Manchester, Hendon in Sunderland and Skelmersdale, receives a total of £20,000 alongside expert support and guidance to set up and run their Community Improvement District.

Jenny Sansom, Community Improvement District pilot lead at Power to Change, said: “If we are to reverse the plague of identikit high streets on the one hand and tackle shuttered-up buildings on the other, we must give communities ownership and say over their town centres. Rolling out this approach in England has the potential to turn the tide on decline by acting as a catalyst for bold, creative high streets that move beyond the outdated retail-dominated model and offer people services and experiences not available online.”

Visitor numbers to UK high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in May remained 12.5pc down on pre-pandemic levels. The shift to working from home and concerns about the cost of living continue to hold back trade, says the British Retail Consortium.

More from Wolverton:

More growth debate articles: