New work spaces, world-class digital infrastructure and more homes are key to reviving our town and city centres, according to Greater Brighton Chairman Daniel Humphreys.

“We may be paying the price of a past overemphasis on retail, but if we collaborate, take the lessons from the past and learn from each other, the future is bright,” he said, speaking on Thursday at a London conference on the future of city centres. 

Organised by the Centre for Cities, the conference – entitled What future for the British high street? – explored what urban centres need to do to survive.

Cllr Humphreys, who is also Leader of Worthing Borough Council, added that cultural and social amenities should be seen as assets rather than a problem to be managed, and that it was important for local authorities to promote and become involved in private regeneration initiatives where needed and appropriate.

The conference agreed good jobs and a strong economy were key to restoring the high street. For Cllr Humphreys this should involve supporting further and higher education to produce a more qualified workforce to attract businesses.

He said that the Greater Brighton had strong skills-based and academic education provision both at its colleges, including Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, and two universities. 

The Centre for Cities is an independent think tank dedicated to helping UK cities improve. In its recent report What’s in Store? How and why cities differ for consumers, it challenges the idea that high streets can be revived solely through direct interventions such as business rates cuts, online sales taxes or cultural initiatives. 

It argues that taken in isolation, these fail to address the core reasons some town and city centre economies are struggling: a lack of diversity in both amenities for consumers and places of production for businesses.

Cllr Humphreys said: “Town centres are crucial to the future fortunes of Greater Brighton which is why we must work together to ensure they remain vibrant hubs for our communities and attractive to visitors.

“In Worthing we have already started on plans costing millions of pounds to protect the centre, changing the mix with more housing and more leisure attractions on our seafront together with plans for a re-landscaping project on many of our main thoroughfares.

“Similar plans are underway across the City Region – from Crawley to Burgess Hill, Lewes to the centre of Brighton. I look forward to these developing over time.”