Focus on town centres

“The first step to turn around towns is to show we care.” From Twitter

Before starting his interim role as Oxford City Centre Manager, Iain worked with colleagues on long-term town centre projects in Wantage and Banbury as a town team co-ordinator, and led a part-time Independent Shops Project in Abingdon. He has jointly run a ‘pop up shop’ project in Wallingford, worked with local partners on a town centre vitality project for Swindon.

“Great to meet you and sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job for your town.” From FaceBook

The Wantage Town Team – with team mate Mim Norvell, supported by Neil Wild – worked on a range of initiatives including opening the Flashop pop up shop and a community space on the town’s Mill Street as well as developing the Wantage & Grove Loyalty scheme, facilitating creation of the Wantage presents… public performance and art thread, producing new town maps, what’s on guides, #shoplocal short films, a ‘Now and then’ Museum expo, a series of town trails and window display projects, plus commissioning a GoogleMyBusiness initiative

“…a lot of us independents wouldn’t be here without the help of the town team.” Town Centre business owner

“You are doing a brilliant job!!! We wouldn’t be here without your help.” Town Centre business owner

OG EmptiesIn October 2013 the Vale of White Horse District Council announced that: “The number of shop units currently lying vacant in the district has reached a five year low.” It added: “The big success story for the district has been Wantage where the vacancy rate has more than halved in the last twelve months.”

“Well done to you guys, you have been great for the town. It’s amazing to see the difference you and Mim have made. Thank you!” From FaceBook

logo capture

The 4-year Cherwell District Council-funded Banbury #townteam project – with Flashop UK co-director, Neil Wild – focused on work with landlords and agents to reduce the number of empty town centre shops, and on exploring opportunities to introduce the pop up, community shop and meanwhile window display concepts.

The number of vacant Banbury town centre units halved during the lifetime of the town team project.”


“…you thoroughly deserve the thanks of the whole town.”  From FaceBook


The brief also included identifying gaps in the town’s retail and leisure offer, promoting Banbury to would-be new town centre businesses, helping develop initiatives that reduce “leakage” of spending power, and strengthening stakeholder relationships.

Thanks for all you do in Banbury Iain. Your support is much appreciated.”From FaceBook

Iain and Neil were commissioned in 2017 and into 2018 to deliver support roles to the development and then launch phase of Banbury Business Improvement District (BID). Iain returned to Banbury in November 2018 to take on a 6-month Interim BID Manager role, while a new permanent manager was recruited.

“We are grateful to Iain for the great work he delivered in his Interim role, and his continued passion and enthusiasm for our town centre.” Banbury BID


Mon Petit Oscar OGThe first of what became a series of Wallingford pop up shops opened in July 2015, proving popular from the start.

“Great job of setting up the pop up shop @prbi_Iain, it’s looking great!”

“There are very few empty shops. The pop up shop initiative, backed by the town council, has been a huge success.” Town Mayor

Launched in January 2017 – with Neil Wild – the Swindon project focused on working with landlords and agents to tackle barriers to empty units being let, and attracting businesses – especially independents – into the town centre. The project is currently on hold.

“I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you and Neil for all you’ve done for us in Swindon over the past year. We appreciate you helping us to see what is possible.”


In August 2017, Iain was commissioned by Vale of White Horse District Council to work with local partners on a scheme aimed at attracting independent shops to Abingdon and supporting existing retailers. An early success for the project was agreement for a shopping centre pop up shop by a local group of Etsy sellers.

Iain’s take on high street issues and the challenges facing our town centres are on twitter at prbi_Iain.

“No-one works harder around Oxfordshire to ensure shops like @MostlyReading will still be here when you next come in.” From Twitter