One key opportunity arising from COVID-19 and its consequences is the social and economic reinvention of the High Street which serves to resolve the emerging economic, retail, mental health, climate, opportunity and community crisis across England and is measured through a new Gross Domestic Wellbeing metric. There is a risk that these issues – some of which have greatly worsened during the pandemic or pose a huge risk to the effectiveness of the Government’s COVID-19 recovery plans – will be tackled in a piecemeal, costly and unproductive way. An integrated approach to resolving all of these issues through the High Street as well as measuring its success through a new metric has the greatest potential to generate visible, impactful and long-lasting results felt and seen by all.
Redesigning the High Street from a place of mainly retail chains to a designated area of purposeful human interaction and activity could foster encounter culture, combat isolation, and encourage belonging in towns and cities across England. The Government’s £1 billion Town Fund announcement in the Spring Budget is a step in the right direction, however to truly “level’’ up towns (as well as cities) it must be measured beyond pure economics if it is to prove meaningful to those who visit and experience the High Street. A Gross Domestic Wellbeing metric to measure the reinvention of the High Street offers a more holistic alternative to Gross Domestic Product as a measure of social progress for all of these issues during COVID-19 recovery.