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Exploring the impact of town centre governance on commercial measures of vitality and viability

Hehir, Alan (2019) Exploring the impact of town centre governance on commercial measures of vitality and viability. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

It is well documented that recent changes to the retail landscape in the United Kingdom have had a negative impact on the commercial vitality and viability of town centres. Retail consumers are becoming uninterested in town centres, and, they are adopting alternative ways to shop. The effects of change can be seen in the retail landscape of town centres, where a preference for retail investment has declined in relation to the investment in edge of, and out of centre locations. What is less well documented, or understood, is the effect that government policy and, local governance has had on the pace of retail change over the past fifty years. For example, have policies and local governance ameliorated, or exacerbated changes to the retail landscape of town centres over the past fifty years? This research, through a comparative case study of four United Kingdom town centres, explores how local governance impacts on the retail landscape of town centres, and as a result how local governance impacts on town centre vitality and viability. The evidence suggests that the retail development approach of elite influencers is a result of the interaction between their cultural paradigms, and the resource capacity available to them. When influencers enact a centrifugal approach, they effectively push retail development away from the town centre, thus decreasing commercial vitality and viability; When influencers enact a centripetal approach, they effectively pull retail development into the town centre, thus retaining a higher level of commercial vitality and viability. The conclusions raise some interesting questions for further research; the most obvious being that if the culture of influencers is perceived as being a contributing factor towards the commercial decline of town centres, how do we influence that culture? For if we cannot influence the culture of local governance, how can we influence the vitality and viability of town centres?

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