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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper
Using Micro-Geography Data to Identify Town-Centre Space in Great Britain
Paul Cheshire, Christian A. L. Hilber, Piero Montebruno and Rosa Sanchis-Guarner May 2017
Paper No' SERCDP0213:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: L81; R12; R52

Tags: town centre; planning; retail sector; land use

We often talk about ‘Town Centres’, but defining their location and extent is surprisingly difficult. Their boundaries are hard to pin down and intrinsically fuzzy. Nevertheless, the British government introduced very specific policies for them in 1996 – Town Centre First Policies (TCFP) – without defining them. The semi-official definitions introduced in 2004 did not cover Scotland, only England and Wales. Using a range of variables available for the whole of Great Britain that capture all the dimensions of ‘town centredness’, we start by replicating the definitions for England and Wales. Then, we use an alternative list of towns and cities and apply our estimated coefficients to predict their size. Our models yield high correlations between the semi-official DCLG values and our predicted values, so we then move on to identify Town Centres for all three countries of GB. Our method is a contribution in its own right but is also an essential step if there is to be a rigorous evaluation of TCFP since it makes it possible to compare changes in the ‘policy treated’ Town Centres of England and Wales with changes in the ‘policy untreated’ ones of Scotland.

This paper has been published as:
'Take me to the centre of your town! Using micro-geographical data to identify town centres', Paul Cheshire, Christian Hilber, Piero Montebruno and Rosa Sanchis-Guarner, CESifo Economic Studies Journal, March 2018