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Take Me to the Centre of Your Town! Using Micro-geographical Data to Identify Town Centres


  • Paul Cheshire
  • Christian Hilber
  • Piero Montebruno
  • Rosa Sanchis-Guarner


We often talk about ‘Town Centres’ (TCs), but defining their location and extent is surprisingly difficult. Their boundaries are hard to pin down and intrinsically fuzzy. Nevertheless, policymakers often speak or act as if their definition was self-evident. The Dutch and later the British governments, for example, introduced very specific policies for them without ever clearly defining what or where they were. In this article, we propose a simple methodology to predict TC boundaries and extent. Using a range of micro-geographical data, we test our method for the whole of Great Britain in an attempt to capture all the dimensions of ‘town centredness’ in a 3D surface. We believe this is a contribution in its own right but is also an essential step if there is to be any rigorous analysis of TC or evaluation of policies directed at them. Our method should contribute to improve not just debates about cities, shopping hierarchies, and TCs but also to other more general debates where people and policy proceed ahead of any clear definition of what are the objects of interest.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Cheshire & Christian Hilber & Piero Montebruno & Rosa Sanchis-Guarner, 2018. "Take Me to the Centre of Your Town! Using Micro-geographical Data to Identify Town Centres," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 64(2), pages 255-291.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cesifo:v:64:y:2018:i:2:p:255-291.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dolega, Les & Pavlis, Michalis & Singleton, Alex, 2016. "Estimating attractiveness, hierarchy and catchment area extents for a national set of retail centre agglomerations," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 78-90.
    2. Paul C. Cheshire & Christian A. L. Hilber & Ioannis Kaplanis, 2015. "Land use regulation and productivity—land matters: evidence from a UK supermarket chain," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 43-73.
    3. Paul C. Cheshire & Christian A. L. Hilber & Ioannis Kaplanis, 2012. "Evidence from a UK supermarket chain," Working Papers 2012/15, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    4. David L. Huff, 1963. "A Probabilistic Analysis of Shopping Center Trade Areas," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1), pages 81-90.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cuberes, David & Roberts, Jennifer & Sechel, Cristina, 2019. "Household location in English cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 120-135.

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    More about this item


    town centre; planning; retail sector; land use;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • R52 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Land Use and Other Regulations


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