Portsmouth’s urban centre – Will COVID-19 or effective collaboration accelerate change in our urban centres?

Posted on 28th September 2020
Last week we held our third in a series of virtual roundtable breakfasts to discuss the early findings of a report, commissioned by Blake Morgan and undertaken by the Southern Policy Centre, which explores how city centres in the central south are responding to the many pressures for change, and what the future holds for our urban centres: Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP), Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester.

Against the background of a lively public debate about the future of city centres, this latest breakfast focused on the city of Portsmouth, where members of the business community, and the public and charity sectors, met to hear about and discuss the findings. These virtual discussions will help inform our final report.

One word that has continually been used throughout our discussions is ‘curation’.  Successful urban centres need to be ‘curated’ with collaboration from the public, businesses and the public sector.  Our discussion this week touched on the topic of who can effectively lead that collaboration.  Does the south of England have forums where effective collaboration between stakeholders can take place?  Does Shaping Portsmouth perform this role for its City?

Separately, we discussed how COVID-19 has led to the acceleration of new schemes such as the shutting of roads for cycling, al fresco dining and markets to allow for social distancing.  One of our contributors said that such closures would normally have taken much time to achieve but the onset of the pandemic has facilitated them being achieved much more quickly through collaboration.  Will this new streamlined approach become more common or is this a temporary change?  Will we revert to ‘the old ways’ when the pandemic is under control?

Our next virtual roundtable breakfast discussion will focus on Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.  This will be held on 2 October 2020.  The final report will be formally published in November 2020.

Reimagining City Centres

Image credit @Drawnalism and @DrawnalismMat, Drawnalism Ltd.

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