About the Task Force

Questions that refer specifically to the Task Force

How do I know what Task Force support I can access?


All our online support through this website is available free for you to use. Its development costs have been funded by government and it will be available until June 2024. This is our current online support but over time, we will be adding more free to access toolkits, diagnostics, and new resources. If you register with us, you will get weekly updates on new support available from us, news about town centres, and links to useful information.

The Task Force will also work with individual towns. Our process for this is to work with places in greater need as indicated by data evidence. The selection of these places will be done by the Task Force. It is not open to application by places. The work with individual towns will include providing reports and expert advice to a town, and running workshops where a need is identified.


How do I make the best use of the HSTF resource library?


This is a searchable collection of articles, guidance, case studies, checklists, how to guides, data and intelligence about town centres and high streets. It has practical guides, comprehensive reports on how high streets are changing and the responses required, many resources about how COVID is impacting town centres including ideas on how to respond, as well as research publications and thought pieces that propose different futures for town centres.

Go to the resource library. Start by entering a relevant word that you need information or help on (such as ‘partnership’. ‘leadership’, ‘retail’, ‘parking’, ‘mixed use’) and you should find a number of relevant resources. Every item in the resource library has been provided with a summary, so a quick read of that will tell you if it will help with what you are looking for. You can then read the whole article.

We have around 100 resources at the moment but this will grow throughout the life of the Task Force.


We are a small town, is the Task Force relevant for us?


Yes, definitely. In small towns, it is usually not the loss of multiple retailers that is the prime cause of problems, they were never there in the first place, but they are still being impacted by out of town and online shopping, the loss of services such as banks, post offices, and limited employment opportunities. Many smaller centres, be they District Centres in suburban areas, market or coastal towns, have not seen the same priority on their town centres as the larger centres in their districts perhaps have. To address this, often, but not always, it is resident or community groups, traders groups, or local activists who initiate change. There are examples of where a local authority is closely involved. East Lindsey Council in Lincolnshire hosted a vital and viable workshop in Louth attended by some 50 residents, community group representatives, local traders, businesses and elected members and officers of the Council tiers in the town in Summer 2019. This generated significant enthusiasm for change from those attending and East Lindsey then held similar workshops in four other market and coastal towns. A programme of action has followed in each of the towns, even through COVID, and there is regular engagement and communication between the local authority and the people in the town centres. East Lindsey’s Head of Economic Development describes some of this in the 4th webinar of the HSTF Routemap to Transformation.

The HSTF 4 Rs Regeneration Framework was developed alongside and has been applied in a wide range of smaller towns to initiate actions. This is a way of identifying requirements for change and can then help create common ground for discussions between the community and local authority.


Is the Task Force support going to change in the future?


The high street of the future will be different. The Task Force has developed its original support to react to COVID and provide support for town and city centres looking to navigate a route through it in the face of the enormous changes it has brought. We have provided this through two new frameworks – the COVID-19 Recovery Framework and a Routemap to Transformation. We have online resources that support these frameworks and a webinar series that is available to view on the latter.

The support materials for helping places at this time include:

Guidance for local authorities: excellence in developing COVID Recovery Plans

Checklist for recovery stages

Guidance on managing COVID risks in places of public assembly

Checklist for temporary public realm changes

An introduction to tactical urbanism

Using the COVID Recovery Framework – a case study from St Helens

Insight reports on recovery (series)

COVID-19: Recovery Best Practice Guide

We will continue to add to these as recovery moves forward. However, it is has become clear that recovery is not the final objective. The scale of change for town centres means transformation is required. New uses will be identified and retail will cease to dominate in most town centres.

Transformation needs leading and managing. Our work with towns over the last few years has identified that many places no longer have effective capacity for local leadership. Identifying a way forward requires this leadership. A leadership that uses evidence to understand the need of their high street, to understand the prognosis and horizon, to mobilise support and to approach the challenge by engaging and working with the community that uses or could use the centre, the businesses invested in it as well as property owners, transport operators, other tiers of local government, business and community groups and other stakeholders.

How the Task Force will help

Our routemap to transformation identifies four steps. Follow the links to download videos featuring expert speakers on each topic and access resources and learning materials for each topic.

Building capacity and leadership, and assessing the need for spatial change (Restructuring)

Developing collaborative inclusive visions that inspire change (Respositioning)

Engendering pride, commitment and attachment through communication (Rebranding)

Creating vital and viable multifunctional hubs (Reinventing)

All our online support is available free of charge. We will have it available, and will update, until June 2024. As circumstances change and we understand more about the impact of COVID on different types of town, we will add new information, guidance and data. This will be through reports, podcasts, and online learning from our expert partners.

The Task Force will work directly with town and city centres where we identify greatest need. We have a process for doing this, which is being updated to reflect changes brought by COVID. We will offer expert insight to address barriers to change, host workshops and deliver training.

Gathering and using evidence

The process of transformation needs an evidence base. It is important to understand many things about your town and what impact initiatives you take have on it. This can be initiated by checking what data you already have, seeking evidence from partners and the wider community and regular monitoring of change. To help with this, the Task Force is making available dashboards. We are currently working with a number of towns to trial these. They will be available for places that commit to gathering data and using the dashboards with their partners to understand and monitor change. This will include gathering footfall data, as it is a key performance indicator.

The Standard dashboard: available to a wide variety of locations in England that agree to engage in a manual counting regime, counting three hours, over three days and three months. The Standard dashboard uses software, developed by Cardiff University, to turn these manual counts into one year of predicted, hourly footfall counts. This then enables place leaders to estimate their town type, level of attractiveness and other benefits.

The Advanced dashboard: available to any place management organisation in England that collects footfall data in a town centre or high street, using Springboard's automated footfall counting technology. The Advanced dashboard enables place leaders to identify their town type, and where it sits in the activity hierarchy, as well as a number of other functions, such as monitoring the daytime and nighttime economies.

To support the Standard Dashboard, the Task Force has advice on manual footfall counting:

Establishing a footfall baseline,

Guidance for manual footfall counting,

Manual footfall Risk Assessment

Manual footfall counting sheet

Manual footfall counting information sheet

More details on the availability of dashboards will be published.