Portas review recommends hyperlocal sites for town centres


Mary Portas has published her review of town centre trading.  I took part in a seminar she organised, where I made the point that town centres were generally non-existant or awful online.  They fail to get across the great character of independent traders and the range of things you can do there.

There’s huge scope for simple, low cost hyperlocal sites owned and run by local people and local traders that talk about the great opportunities there of all sorts – not just retail.  This was inspired by the lovely sites Talk About Local has helped people create in Kington, Herefordshire and recently in Woodley Precinct in Stockport.

So I am very pleased to see the Portas review come up with some basic suggestions in this space.

“Virtual” High Streets: Today we all live online too. I would like Town Teams to create an online ‘bottom up’ virtual version of their high street which is the easy automatic ‘go to’ for all things to do with your local area. We could use online tools and software to get people thinking and talking about their high street, not as a ‘council of despair’ but to contribute in a positive way. The Virtual High Street would show you all offers, across all shops and businesses….. In addition, the Virtual High Street creates a powerful social forum for people to share and discuss. There’s real potential in finding who lives locally and what skills they can offer to their town.

If I had one caution for anyone looking to set a site up to talk about a town centre, then you should not create something that is an insipid piece of marketing led puff from a corporate comms department.  Authentic voices shine through.  If you would like some help to create a low cost site owned and run by local people about your town centre than drop us a line – hello@talkaboutlocal.org

It’s very easy to do – if you can send an email, then you can create a basic site – we’d be happy to show you how and help you grow the site with great local content and discussion.

[Edit history – I made some slight updates to this post a few minutes after first publishing]

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William Perrin

Founder of Talk About Local, Trustee of the Indigo Trust, member of UK Government transparency panels, former Policy Advisor to UK Prime Minister, former Cabinet Office senior civil servant.Open data do-er, Kings Cross London blogger. Loves countryside. Two kids, not enough sleep.
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