Opening up high streets to communities through shared spaces could help our towns and cities bounce back after Covid-19. This is one of the exciting ideas presented at the C-CARE project launch event in September.
The event, which was organised by lead partner Kent County Council, had more than 100 attendees and featured presentations from project partners Norfolk County Council, New Anglia LEP, Pas-de-Calais Tourisme, CESI Rouen and Département du Finistère.
Among the presentations on the day, there were new insights from Plymouth City Council on the future of our high streets post-pandemic, Norfolk County Council on its Go Digital initiative to support SMEs with the digital transition and Pas-de-Calais Tourisme’s training programme for enterprises in the tourism sector.
Plymouth City Council was invited to present a case study and findings from previous C-CARE workshops, drawing on research and recent pilots to revitalise high streets post-pandemic. This included plans for an ambitious shift away from single industry areas towards community inclusiveness, increasing community ownership in high streets to mitigate the economic impact of Covid and advocating for the introduction of spaces dedicated to health, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and upskilling.
These ideas draw from studies and best practice examples discussed by various organisations including the NHS and Historic England at a cross-border C-CARE workshop on high streets and employment premises earlier in July. On this occasion, Plymouth City Council’s strategy to put health at the heart of community spaces was showcased, with plans to create “healthy street premises” such as green areas, in addition to Wellbeing centres providing support in mental health and loneliness.
Case studies were also drawn from outside the Channel area, addressing for instance the use of digital tools to increase community engagement within cities. There was an example of an initiative developed by Selby District Council, using Minecraft, a popular video game to connect with the younger demographics, offering them the opportunity to explore the cultural heritage of the town while enabling them to imagine how it should look like in the future.
The research and case studies will feed into C-CARE’s Reset and Redesign strategy, aimed at developing a blueprint for future town centres to improve long-term prospects for businesses and tackle social exclusion.
Input from the discussions were live illustrated by designer Joe Meldrum:
At the event project partners also presented initiatives to support hard-hit businesses reboot after the pandemic. This included the GoDigital programme developed by Norfolk County Council, which launched its second phase this month, with 600 local SMEs being supported to make the most of the digital transition through advisory support and £500 business grant vouchers.
During the first phase of this initiative, 184 Norfolk-based SMEs, mostly in the tourism and care sectors as well as food and drink producers, were assisted by Norfolk County Council, in setting up detailed action plans to increase businesses’ online presence and help them move over to the appropriate digital tools.
Aiming to assist businesses recover from the pandemic, while becoming technologically resilient and environmentally sustainable, Kent County Council will launch two business support schemes in Autumn 2021. Further, a third scheme will be launched by the end of 2021 by KCC, which will aim to increase consumer confidence among the residents and traders of the Kent region.
In the Pas-de-Calais area, a Sustainable Tourism and Corporate Social Responsibility Campus will provide tourism enterprises with a 6-month training scheme, relying on both collective meetings and individual follow-ups by an expert.
The C-CARE (Covid Channel Area Response Exchange) project is to deliver a €6.7million package of Covid-19 recovery support for businesses and people in the UK and France. C-CARE, funded by the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, will reach almost 2,000 businesses and more than 4,000 people in the Channel area that have struggled during the pandemic.