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Town Centre Solutions | People & Places


We offer a range of services to help town centres and localities across the UK adapt and meet changing expectations, providing established expertise and support to make Town Centres fit for the future.

Our services include (the following list should be clicked on which take you to a separate page:

  • Benchmarking
  • Advanced Car Parking Studies
  • First Time Visitor Reviews
  • Signage Reviews
  • Event Evaluation
  • BID Members/ Business Surveys


People and Places Insight are committed to providing established expertise and support to make Town Centres fit for the future.

We have worked extensively with Local Authorities, BIDs and Neighbourhood Planning teams across the UK for the last 11 years running the nationally acclaimed ‘Town Benchmarking System’.

Benchmarking is a tried and tested methodology with the backing of the Department for Communities and Local Government providing a detached, impartial evidence based approach to understanding the performance of town centres.

Aligned with the requirements to apply for funding in the Future High Street Fund, Benchmarking offers a review of;

  • Use Class
  • Retail Offer
  • Markets
  • Footfall
  • Car Parking
  • Business Confidence
  • Town Centre User Satisfaction
  • Shopper Origin

Recent feedback on Benchmarking Reports highlighted how they have been used for many different purposes including:

  • Measuring High Street regeneration projects
  • Measuring the impact of events and festivals
  • Providing an evidence base for funding applications
  • Providing an evidence base for car parking initiatives
  • Providing an evidence base for Neighbourhood Planning
  • Supporting community group
  • Developing project ideas such as Free after 3 Parking, Signage Reviews, Business Improvement Districts

One of the key benefits of Benchmarking is that the reports compare towns against all those in the region, nationally and of a similar typology as shown in the Retail Vacancy Average Chart below. We can also offer a longitudinal analysis.

National Small Towns
Regional Small Towns
Town A

Vacancy %

9 7 5


With over 300 tows Benchmarked over the last 10 years we have a huge bank of case studies available on request.

Advanced Car Parking Studies

Due to issues surrounding Car Parking provision, policy and pricing being a key theme in many of our town centres People and Places Insight have developed a Car Parking Study which offers a more in-depth approach to both the traditional Benchmarking work and the well published Lambeth methodology.

Firstly, the People and Places Insight Limited Research team visit the town centre to count the total number of on street and off-street car parking spaces available for public use in the defined town centre boundary.

With on street parking, if the bays are not clearly marked the length of each parking bay is measured and then converted into parking spaces by dividing the length by 5 as each vehicle is assumed to measure 5m. For example, a parking bay measuring 47m in length would provide 9 parking bays (47/5=9.4=9)

In terms of off-street parking, i.e. in designated car parks, People and Places experience in the Benchmarking audit has highlighted that official numbers of spaces available as cited by Local Authorities or on road signs can often be incorrect. Thus, during the first visit the total number of spaces broken down into Disabled, Short Stay (Less than 4 hours) and Long Stay is conducted.
The locality will then be visited on four separate days to provide an impartial, detached and systematic review of the car parking situation in the designated town centre area;

  • 3 weekdays to be decided by the client but should include a ‘busier’ and ‘quieter’ day
  • Saturday

It is essential that the audit is completed in normal conditions trading, so school holidays, bank holidays and key calendar dates need to be avoided. Accepted methodologies such as the Lambeth Study concentrate on the weekdays but do not offer an analysis of the weekend.

People and People Places Insight offer both the weekday audits to provide baseline figures but will complete this over three days rather than the two, and in order to understand the impact of weekend trading on the town centre the Saturday audit is completed. The robust methodology applied thus offers comparative data against the weekday control group.

Rather than conducting a one-off count as per the Lambeth methodology, on each selected day, the research team will audit the car parking area once an hour recording the occupancy levels.
The final output will be provided in an in-depth report.

First Time Visitor Reviews

People and Places Insight have developed ‘First Time Visitor Review’ reports which are completed by one of our Research Team who have not visited the locality before.

The researcher rates and reviews a range of criteria, which have been identified and refined over time as being important to a first-time visitor to the town centre, using a standardised worksheet on which the final report is based.

The report is well used in towns looking at tapping into the tourism market or for a holistic mystery shop type review of the locality. The first-time visitor will identify aspects of the town centre such as signage, car parking, physical appearance, retail offer, public convenience and accessibility which a regular user may not identify.

The report is clearly structured and broken down into the categories reviewed during the researchers first time visit;

  • Physical Appearance
  • Retail Offering
  • Leisure/ Cultural Facilities
  • Pedestrian Signage
  • Car Parking
  • Public Toilets
  • Accommodation
  • Access to Services
  • Food and Drink Offering
  • Transport/ Traffic

Each category is scored on a five-point rating scale ranging from Very Good to Very Poor followed, where appropriate, by commentary under Positive and Negative headings.

Signage Reviews

Whilst residents, workers and frequent visitors may not pay attention it is essential that the ‘first time/ infrequent visitors’ are provided with the relevant signage information to ensure that they can enjoy the retail, food, drink, leisure, car parking and cultural and heritage offering in the town centre.

The real aim of signage is to ensure the balance between promoting town heritage, leisure and cultural facilities, services and businesses. Thus, before embarking on providing new signage it is important to determine who it is for and its purpose. Too often signage in towns indicates civic buildings and local services which are of most value to local residents who probably already know how to find them.

It is important to indicate the location of key local services such as public toilets, post office, tourist information and heritage centre that can be used by visitors as well. Heritage and landmarks are important attractions that hold visitors in a town and encourage them to wander around it.

People and Places Insight boast a nationwide team of trained researchers who conduct fieldwork which is broken into specific elements;

  • As part of the Wayfinding process, a First Time Visitor is used to map a natural progression through the town centre.
  • Using the identified routes there is an assessment of all existing pedestrian signage within that route(s). The assessment is based on a standard form reviewing Visibility, Function, Need and Condition.
  • During the review of the whole defined Town Centre various action points such as new signage needed or signage to be removed are made. The details of this review are identified in the Miscellaneous section of the report.

The report is clearly structured and easy to use with recommendations made.

Event Evaluation

Understanding and evaluating key calendar dates in the town centre such as markets, events and festivals is an essential, yet often overlooked, process. By asking those attending events how they rate various aspects can be included with wider evaluations such as footfall, visitor origin and business reviews to measure the performance of an event, identify positive and negative aspects and work out if the event is working.

Our Research Team visit events to gather information such as;

  • Customer spend
  • Length of stay
  • Visit recommendation
  • Improvements

Augmenting the face to face interviews, paper-based surveys and online surveys are made available.

BID Members/ Business Surveys

In terms of Business/ Member Surveys, People and Places Insight have considerable experience and in recent years have conducted work in an array of locations including;

  • Ourburystedmunds BID Business Survey
  • Chippenham BID Business Survey
  • inSwindon BID Business Survey
  • Love Newmarket BID Business Survey
  • FindYourFleet BID Business Survey
  • Shipston on Stour Neighbourhood Plan Business Surveys
  • Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan Business Survey
  • Royal Wootton Basset Town Council Business Confidence Survey

Business Improvement Districts look to undertake a survey of their members to ascertain;

  • Mid-term reflection of BID
    • Awareness of the BID
    • Perception of achievements
    • Impact of BID
    • Aspirations for remaining term
  • Business Confidence survey
    • Current sales
    • Current footfall
    • Retail mix of town
  • Perceptions of impact concerning large proposed retail development

People and Places Insight Limited complete a two-pronged approach to ensure all members have the opportunity to complete the survey in the manner which they prefer i.e. paper based and online.

People and Places Insight produce a Full Report with Executive Summary within two weeks of the survey closure date. As part of the fee a presentation of the results and dissemination at an event of the clients choice. Examples of previous Reports are available on request.

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Phone: 01908 776940