Posted by Property Week on 16th May 2019

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week and this Monday Ellandi, working with Knight Frank published its latest annual research into community shopping centres, titled Beyond Retail.

The report highlights the role community uses play in ensuring the vibrancy of our town centres.  But our town centres also play a role in bringing people together, with over 85% of visitors being with a friend or family member.

Loneliness and social exclusion are key factors in mental health. The NHS Long Term Plan recognises the importance of improving mental health provision by growing mental health services faster than the overall NHS budget and by ring fencing a new local investment fund of £2.3bn by 2023/24. This Long-Term Plan also has a focus on bringing health back to the high street, and this is where community shopping centres can pay a key role.    

Shopping centres often find themselves at the centre of their communities by virtue of being large elements of a place’s physical infrastructure. However, the role they play within these environments can be much more impactful. Community shopping centres by their very nature are assets that are used frequently for generally needs and convenience-based purchases. Unlike regional destinations, community schemes can capitalise on being conveniently located for the majority of their visitors with most travelling only 18 minutes away from their local centre and operate on a human scale that is less intimidating, especially for those with disabilities.   

While on the whole shoppers will understandably travel further afield to centres with a critical mass of comparison retail, leisure and entertainment, convenience and ease of accessibility are paramount to users of health facilities, public services and amenities. This makes them obvious locations to deliver projects to combat social exclusion and loneliness. At Parkway Shopping Centre in Coulby Newham, after speaking with local residents and shoppers it was made clear that due to reduced services on public transport some of the local community, particularly the elderly, had been left isolated and unable to access the shopping centre. The centre’s management team arranged for a private hire of a 24-seater minibus to be trialled weekly on a Monday to allow pensioners to use the Post Office on pension day. Now into its second year, the community bus provides essential transportation, twice a week, from surrounding villages to the centre, giving people a chance to get out to shop and socialise. Retaining relevance in town centres is increasingly important in light of the major challenges facing the retail sector and how it needs to reinvent itself to survive, and indeed thrive.    

In Bootle, The Strand Shopping Centre’s Toolshed is part of a national men’s shed network which highlights the social struggles of mainly men who are either retired, widowed or out of work and for whom social interaction is a challenge. It focusses on providing woodwork workshops for people from the local community and its aim is to provide a space where people can come together in a place with a purpose to combat social isolation.    

Providing easy access to community shopping centres via schemes like the Parkway bus and bringing the community together with initiatives such as the Bootle Toolshed are just two ways that Ellandi is using its assets to fight social exclusion and promote the mental health and wellbeing of our customers. 




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