Delegates from across the country heard how research and data can help shape town centres, at a conference held in Durham City.

At the Revive and Thrive conference, which was supported by Durham County Council, delegates heard from nationally acclaimed academics on recent research, its findings, and how they can harness data to deliver more informed and collaborative decision making on the future of our high streets.

Attendees and speakers were welcomed by the council’s Chief Executive Terry Collins who gave an update on the council’s outlook for the future and Visit County Durham shared their insight to the visitor economy.

Adam Deathe, the business engagement manager for Durham BID, said: “I want to ensure that Durham is seen as a place where academics are welcome to come and investigate the changing face of the consumer and retail markets. The conference was the best and most informative I have attended in my time as BID manger.”

Keynote speaker Dr Steve Millington, of the Institute of Place Management, spoke on the Bringing Big Data to Small Users research programme that works to develop effective tools that enable policy makers, retailers, retail property owners, and local partnerships to use data to make informed and collaborative decisions about the future of town and city centres.

Professor Kim Cassidy spoke about the Grimsey Review 2 that looks at what the future holds for the UK’s towns and cities. The report says they are currently undergoing their greatest challenge, which is to remain relevant and economically viable in the 21st Century.

Keith O’Brien is a director of Cestrian Estates Limited, a commercial property management company based in County Durham. He attended the conference after being invited by the council’s community economic development manager, he said: “The Revive & Thrive event was very informative for us looking into the future for our business, it’s encouraging to know that we can move forward together to improve our local communities and our high streets”.

Delegates also heard from Springboard about its latest intelligence on footfall and retail trends and Ronnie Brown, the managing director of Blachere Illuminations who are responsible for lighting up towns and cities at Christmas time.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are thrilled to have been able to welcome these inspiring speakers to Durham. By sharing knowledge and working together with local business, we can improve what our highstreets have to offer to visitors and residents”.