The new chairman of Poole BID says creating new communities is the key to reinvigorating town centres in the conurbation.

James Croker believes the concept of town centre living must be embraced by planners as part of breathing new life into urban areas, already facing severe challenges from a decade of online shopping growth and the effects of Covid.

He said: “Town and city centres have always been changing based upon market forces. The global pandemic has accelerated the decline of retail stores and introduced an online concept to an older demographic, something that has been rapidly expanding in other age groups for the past ten years.”

In an article appearing in the Echo next week as part of a special supplement exploring the future of our town centres and high streets, Mr Croker says:

“While we should embrace the tech revolution and celebrate it for all the positives it has brought, we should ensure we also stay agile to the notion of changing places and spaces.

“In the UK we like to preserve heritage, but we also seem blinkered to conserving the past to the detriment of progress.

“Places and spaces contribute to 20% of the climate change emergency and by acting quickly can replace inefficient buildings with sustainable buildings which are fit for purpose.

“This sense of community will encourage friendship, intimacy, and a sense of connection and this in turn will lead to esteem and pride.”

Mr Croker said there was high demand to live in the BCP area but the urban sprawl is close to capacity.

“The answers lie within our town and city centres, to repurpose and reinvigorate them and create new communities.

"To increase supply means to build more sustainable homes, the limited land means changing building use and to begin to build up. Creating these communities will reduce localised transport use and minimise the carbon footprint.”

Businesses located in the town centre would benefit from the increased footfall, cleanliness will increase and anti-social behaviour fall because of the pride of residents.

He believes there is a consensus that town and city centres are outdated commercially and environmentally.

Poole BID is up for renewal in a ballot of its levy-paying businesses in April.

◾️The supplement appears in the Echo on February 26.