The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges both for people and society. Many cities and towns have been implementing strategies to address these challenges and are now looking at permanent solutions to transform the urban environment into places for people.
As we emerge from the second lockdown, the scale of economic damage is materialising. Towns must now decide how their towns can recover, balancing lockdown easing and enforcement measures across the country. Even prior to the pandemic, visits to town centres and high streets were already in decline as they struggle to compete with shifting consumer spending patterns and online shopping.
The significant increase of people working from home has made town centres more attractive for people to spend their time and money. While footfall on central locations has been heavily affected by the pandemic, high-streets and town centres have seen an increase in activity as people are showing a preference for amenities and services located closer to home. People want to enjoy their daily activities safely, and towns bring opportunities due to their lower densities and proximity to nature.
This renewed positive focus on town centres requires rethinking them as places for more than just day-to-day convenience, they need to provide with culture, leisure and other activities that will make them vibrant and embrace this growing interest.
Lighting can enhance our human experience in public spaces during the hours of darkness and contribute to easing the pre and post-covid challenges that towns are facing:
1. Attract people safely and sustainably, especially in the response to COVID-19
2. Open-up spaces after dark for flexible use, pop-up events, social spaces community hubs etc.
3. Promote the heritage of the town, night walks, landmarking of building and focus
4. Provide attractive outdoor spaces for people to dwell and enjoy outdoor activity e.g. cultural events, exhibitions or food & beverage.
5. Reconnect with nature, promoting natural assets in or within walking distance of the town centre
6. Remove physical and psychological barriers by activating and improving key crossings such as underpasses and improving wayfinding and signalling within and around the town centre.
7. Bring new life into vacant and underused spaces and buildings to bring vibrancy.
8. Provide spaces that encourage community participation, building ownership and making townsfolk proud
9. Adapt to rapid changes in retail dynamics and online competition; lighting can help support existing commerce and support alternative complementary uses.
We have highlighted how lighting can address the nine town centre challenges with case studies that evidence the socio-economic value of lighting and align with sustainable development goals. The report concludes a step-by-step guide offers advice on how to consider and develop a robust business plan for lighting interventions.