NEWS FROM ODPM
The need for town centre statistics
There are many organisations interested in
information on turnover, employment and
floorspace within town centres. Central
government require it for assessing policies
Until recently there has been a void of upto-
date information. Several problems have
prevented this from being readily available,
The index of town centre activity mapped across
looking towards Central London.
one of which was the lack of small area
information for the town centres, another
being a lack of consistent boundaries from
which to compile statistics that could be
compared from area to area.
This is in the process of changing, due to innovative work commissioned from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). This has so far resulted in a set of provisional town centre boundaries and statistics being published for London, with plans for the work to be extended across England and Wales and published during 2003.
Once the data sources had been established, these could then be used to identify concentrations of town centre activities. The employment data showed where people were employed in town centre activities, and also where there was a diversity of these activities, and the floorspace data showed where there was a concentration of development of the type that would be expected in a town centre. Indicators were developed from the data sources that represented the level of activity, the diversity and the property development at a postcode level. They were then combined together using Geographic Information System techniques to obtain an overall measure of town centre activity, which could be mapped across London. This index was then used to generate boundaries, by choosing a cut-off level, and defining the areas above that level as areas of town centre activity.
Once boundaries had been created, the employment, turnover and floorspace data sets could then be fed into them to produce a set of statistics for each area.
Now available online
Work also remains to be done on improving the data quality. While the feedback on the London publication has indicated that the majority of the statistics are sound, it has also shown that local knowledge exists that could be used to improve accuracy. The ODPM intends to explore the best way of doing this with Local Authorities and the ONS.
While the publication of the results of the London Pilot Study represents a major breakthrough in filling the information void that currently exists around town centres, the future work programme shows how much more is still to come!