Following an introduction to Rockpoint Leisure’s project to regenerate the town of New Brighton in Merseyside – founder Dan Davies joined Hawthorn Leisure’s CEO Gerry Carol, NewRiver’s Paul Wright and Amber Tavern’s property director Sam Frankland on a panel at MA500 Manchester to discuss the role hospitality can play in reviving ailing towns and high streets.
The discussion followed calls by UKHospitality for councils to place the sector at the heart of regeneration projects, and the publication of a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on the revival of seaside towns and communities.
Hospitality and retail working in tandem
With high streets heavily skewed in favour of retail, Carol and Davies both argued that the most future-proofed town centres boasted a healthy number of hospitality outlets to complement them.
“On the high street, if there’s too much retail, what do you do with that? What’s the opportunity there for leisure and for other things,” Carol explained, while Davies added that having shopping centres in addition to pubs was “so important” to regeneration.
A role for private equity?
According to NewRiver’s Paul Wright, the investment of private equity in regeneration projects can “turbocharge” the revival of town centres suffering as a result of the digitisation and the proliferation of online business. However, he added that long-term considerations must be factored in to any project.
Amber Taverns’ Frankland explained: “We’re regenerating footfall in secondary towns but there isn’t a silver bullet, it must be a collective effort.”
Wright concurred that collaboration was key in unlocking the potential of high streets and town centres, with local councils their “long-term custodians” and an integral partner in the regeneration process.
God is in the detail
Both Davies and Carol said that successful regeneration of an area could only be achieved with a meticulously detailed approach – with Davies bemoaning the use of “too many broad brush strokes”.
Carol added: “With individual pubs, you get into the real detail of it. What I’ve done is bought underperforming assets, invested in them and try to get a win-win where everyone is making money.”
Get people living in town centres
Carol argued that retail had had its day and that it was very unlikely to dominate high streets in years to come. He argued that plans to revamp high streets should place residential property at the heart of towns and build customers into town centres.
While agreeing with Carol, Wright added that in order to revive residential town centres, enough regeneration needs to have already taken place to make living more centrally appealing to local residents.
With one in five of all jobs in the UK classed as hospitality according to Davies, the founder of Rockpoint Leisure believes the sector needs to be shouting louder about its achievements to draw people to hospitality-centric regeneration projects.
Additionally, Davies says he wants to “export” talent from his outlets in New Brighton to surrounding areas and widen the impact of his project.
Carol made that point that a more broadly applicable regeneration blueprint could be beneficial to ailing towns centres and high streets – giving local authorities and business leaders more general steps to regeneration that they could combine with local knowledge and granular detail.
“You almost need to have a central plan where people think about how to regenerate town centres,” he explained. “You need people who can think big and have a much more cohesive plan.”