The authors of the report, which has been commissioned by the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership alongside Historic England, said pandemic-related behaviour changes such as the rise of working from home have increased the potential for passing trade in market towns.
It stated: “The historic form and character of historic market towns is inherently human scale and easily accessible. Even if the current retail offer may be less than ideal, the structure of most centres creates an environment where local, non-car dependent shopping should be feasible.
“In many ways, market town centres are the original ‘mixed use development’ with a range of commercial, domestic and ancillary properties in a small area.”
The report added: “The lessons of the pandemic need to be learned and applied quickly – getting as many people walking and cycling wherever possible, ensuring that less mobile people that need to use cars can do so and park easily.
“Car use in more rural areas is likely to remain significant for the foreseeable future and will remain a key part of the visitor profile of rural market towns, with people visiting from the surrounding villages etc, but reducing parking in sensitive historic environments – where space for people could be prioritised – may be advantageous.”
Historic England’s regional director Trevor Mitchell said the pandemic had offered the chance to rethink issues such as parking as people adjusted to new ways of working and how they spent their leisure time.
“We need some new thinking and need to be innovative and Covid has absolutely changed how we live and work,” he said.
“It has offered the opportunity to live a less car-bound and less travel-bound life. In the future of market towns, you may have a different balance between the need for cars and the need for pedestrian priority. It is now time to look at the balance between Tarmac and pedestrian space.”
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