The future is already here, it's just...

A speculative town centre future...

Take a breath. Imagine yourself, for a moment, in the not too distant future. You have an errand to run; maybe you need to get a key cut. You head to your nearest town centre or high street. Secretly, you often find yourself concocting or volunteering for errands, as it's so nice to potter there for a while.

You stop to smell the new flowers in the planters that mark the beginning of the high street and watch with interest as a signwriter puts the finishing touches on the frontage of a new family-run restaurant that’s opening in a long empty shop. The cobblers is busy when you arrive and they ask you to leave your key and come back in 20 minutes.

You wander over to the Commons Cafe for a coffee and a snack, remembering when the department store in the building closed down and how everyone was certain this was the end of the town. Today it’s a thriving community cafe and retail space on the ground floor, with workspace above. You come here to hotdesk sometimes, and enjoy the knowledge that the rent you pay is being reinvested in the building and the street. As you’re drinking your coffee you check out the noticeboards and note the next Community Partnership meeting in your diary. You’ve had an idea about how to make the bike parking at the other end of the street better (it’s getting full these days!), and you know the Partnership will listen, and be able to make a difference.

You spot a friend who hands you a flyer for the club night they’re planning in the railway arches behind the high street. This reminds you you’ve been meaning to mount your speakers on your wall at home, so after your coffee you pop into the Library and borrow a power drill for the next week. After picking up the latest community newspaper, you meander back down the street and pick up some bits for tea from the greengrocer and the newly opened Asian supermarket.

Your shiny new key is waiting when you get back to the cobblers, and you wander home, already planning your next visit.

**I wrote this as part of the Community Improvement Districts guidance, but it was cut! And this is the (imo far more boring) thing I replaced it with…

The CID approach is one that needs imagination and creative thinking. So, imagine with us for a moment.

Imagine if local people had a meaningful way of influencing what happens in their town centres – from planting, to street art, to the use of empty shops and the way bike and car parking is arranged.

Imagine if we could all meet our needs as people on our local high streets, from places to meet your neighbours, to seeing live music, to picking up our groceries, or meeting friends for food.

Imagine if there were ways community businesses with great ideas could easily access property.

Imagine if high street regeneration was led by local community organisations, not dominated by commercial interests which draw profits away from the town, into the pockets of distant shareholders. Imagine the groundswell of creativity and potential.

This isn’t science fiction. Communities across the country are taking a leading role in their high streets and town centres. CIDs are one way to do this – where might your imagination take you?