10 years ago … and what has changed?

Apple told me that this photo is 10 years old today! This photo was taken in a redundant shopping centre in #reading when I was asked to contribute to a BBC News interview with Steph McGovern on the future of town centres. In this case the shopping centre was being used by a Zombie experience company as well as the local emergency services for training. 


So what has changed (apart from how we look) since then?


The answer is A LOT! The speed of change in society has increased significantly and this has big impacts on places and people. The number of challenges has increased so businesses and places are ‘fighting on multiple fronts’ and the first major global challenge since the First and Second World Wars hit us in the form of Covid and has changed more things in the shortest space of time in history! BUT we still have too much retail space as vacancy rates testify, the amount of office space required by businesses is radically changing as a result of ‘flexi working’ and this has also meant a dramatic change in how, where and for how long people want to work.  The skills shortages and the number of unfilled jobs illustrate this.


The GOOD NEWS is that city and town stakeholders, local authorities, businesses and communities, have recognised the need to change and are changing! Since this photo was taken we have seen more funding for cities and towns than ever before and a recognition that all paces are not equal so Levelling Up is a central government key policy. 


To CHANGE, especially with all the challenges we face, is not easy but councils, businesses and communities are and deserve your support and recognition in doing so.


We still have a LONG WAY TO GO as this is evolution and not revolution. What I urge us all to remember on this journey is that we must create places for all – multi generational and multi cultural. We must bring back homes, green space, education, services, culture, health and sport to our towns and cities to fill the voids and support the businesses who remain. This all in the context of being climate change resilient!


Towns and cities must re-establish their reason for being through providing the experiences, services, employment and housing to enable communities to thrive in a safe and inclusive 24 hours environment!


CELEBRATE what has been achieved to date and JOIN your local town and city in supporting these vital changes that will define us as a society and nation. 




Written by Matthew Hopkinson.