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ATCM South East Network: Future High Street Briefing

A great day in London delivered by ATCM yesterday. Helen spent the day with Ojay McDonald, Chief Exec of the ATCM (Association of Town and City Management) looking at the workspaces of the future and how city centres can better support new business with older workspaces.

Hasanul Hoque from Camden Collective delivered an inspiring case study of Camden BID working with local partners to create Camden Collective, a charity sharing disused space with new businesses, delivering community benefits and driving economic growth in an otherwise neglected part of north London. The charity is now self-funding after initial seed money from the BID, and takes over shortterm leases to provide low- or no-cost flexible workspaces (office and retail) to entrepreneurs to test their ideas. His drive, ambition and ‘give it a go’ attitude was inspiration and will encourage St Albans to pursue more specific proposals to landlords of vacant units in our city centre.

Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation talked on a more national level about what her membership of new businesses need in the way of venues and opportunities. The majority of her membership work from home and communicate remotely: they often claim to be too busy to seek or make use of business advice and support, but they represent an opportunity to engage on a micro-level with national brands at the earliest stages of business growth. Examples including bworks, a new venture for Yorkshire Bank, Google Digital Garage and O2 shops reimagined as hubs for new business provide economic incentives and more direct communication opportunities for businesses considering how to use their retail floorspace in the future. Could homeware brands host small business owner events in retail stores to encourage brand awareness as well as potentially then furnish the home office of the future (example being John Lewis)? Could hotels offer their lobby spaces in a more formal way to local business in its early stages (example at Accor)?

Discussions followed on the flexibility that local authorities and local BIDs have to encourage brands and independents as well as landlords to consider these kinds of radical changes in their business models. The impact on the high street of permitted development rights, changing patterns of behaviour for retail and business and a growth in micro-employment collude to create a perfect climate for reimagining our spaces and our communities for the future.

Thoughts and ideas can be forwarded to helen.burridge@stalbansbid.com from interested landlords and small business owners too.