Investment News | 22 July 2020

Build back better, build back different

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Retail guru, Bill Grimsey, told attendees at the Derby Property Zoommit of the need to “build back better, build back different” in a passionate appeal to revitalise town centres in the post-Covid world.

Bill Grimsey

Bill Grimsey

In his new review of the high street, Build Back Better, Grimsey comments on how Covid-19 has accelerated the demise of town and city centres as retail destinations and looks at how they can thrive in the future. He argues that they need to rediscover their community purpose with a renewed sense of localism, with power to run the high street moved away from central government to local leadership.

Speaking to the Derby audience, he said: “We need to empower communities to have a stake in their economy and the development of their centres…all stakeholders should contribute. …this is now localism on steroids.”

He has also called for more attractive public realm to be introduced with more accessible green spaces and for centres to be designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind – “Green spaces in town are the future!”


He spoke at the Zoommit of his envy at the opportunity Derby faces to revitalise its city centre. His review states: “Faced with the huge challenge of rebuilding our high streets, we are presented with a golden opportunity to repair their neglected social fabric, lead a values-led period of social renewal and deliver lasting change….People have noticed significant changes during the lockdown and they know a better life is possible – and our high streets have to be part of this.”

The review highlights that Covid-19 has accelerated the demise of centres as retail destinations, and outlines 27 recommendations including removing retail business rates, making ownership transparent to enable an accountable property market, and reviewing planning powers and use classes. Speaking at the Marketing Derby event, Grimsey was critical in his presentation of absentee landlords who own property in city centres but aren't based there, saying “Root them out!”

Bill Grimsey encouraged the Derby leadership team to think beyond retail for the city centre, to reinvent it in terms of health, education, culture, crafts, housing etc and embrace all generations of the population in its thinking. “There is so much to go for” he said.

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