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High street decline: How can Plymouth city centre bring back the crowds?

Plans to redevelop the Civic Centre in Plymouth are expected to be approved today. Credit: ITV West Country

Plans to redevelop the Civic Centre in Plymouth are expected to be approved today.

The city council will discuss a scheme to convert the former council offices into nearly 1,200 homes.

The proposals form part of a wider scheme to regenerate the city.

Various developments are aiming to regenerate Plymouth city centre. Credit: ITV West Country

The news comes as the number of people visiting shops here in the West Country has fallen by more than a fifth in 10 years leading to the steepest rise in vacant shops in the country.

22%
The amount footfall on West Country high streets has fallen in the past decade (2009-2019).

Turning empty premises above shop buildings into places where people can live is something many believe holds the key to rejuvenating Plymouth.

In the years following the Second World War new housing estates were built on the outskirts of the city to replace bombed homes.

Now many think the city centre needs people to move back.

We're moving from an era where a city centre was really purely about shopping to one where it needs to be far more multi-purpose, it needs to be about community, we need to find some really different ways that people can come and I suppose mix up what they do in their professional lives and their personal lives in interesting ways.

– LINDSEY HALL, Chief executive, Real Ideas Organisation
Empty premises above shop buildings could be developed into housing. Credit: ITV West Country

The Piazza area is used for events like Flavourfest and the Christmas markets.

Plymouth City Council is bidding for up to £25million from the Government's Future High Streets Fund.

£25m
Plymouth City Council is bidding for investment from a Government fund.

One thing the city says needs updating is the Guildhall's conference facilities.

We don't have an awful lot of conference centre facilities in our city centre (...) by investing in the modern technology necessary for a conference facility, that of course will bring literally thousands of people every day which will of course use hotels, bars, restaurants and hopefully once the conference has finished they will go out in the evening, go to the shops, go to the bars and use the restaurants.

– Cllr Mark Lowry, Plymouth City Council

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