Task Force visits 30 towns since reopening as support for high streets continues
The High Streets Task Force has made progress in supporting the transformation of towns and cities across England, working closely with 30 communities since the reopening of high streets on April 12th.
(Image: a high street tour of Sheerness, with representatives of Swale Council - Sept 2021)
The Task Force, funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (previously MHCLG), announced 70 locations to receive direct support earlier in the year. After working throughout 2020 to deliver online guidance on covid-19 response and recovery, the Task Force has resumed its programme of town visits to help diagnose and address their local challenges.
Over the next month, Task Force Experts will visit a further 9 towns as its programme continues, meeting with stakeholders to start supporting their local transformation efforts and offering specialist advice on issues from planning and governance to Net Zero. Each town will access a range of training and data to help ensure local high streets support the needs of their community.
A wide range of towns and cities have received Task Force visits in 2021, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Plymouth, and Barrow to Great Yarmouth. Each receive time with Task Force Experts or Mentors following their visit, to work on specific local issues, as well as access to expert guidance on placemaking and visioning.
Specialist advice and support
Specialist advice for each town is provided by the Task Force’s register of Experts, recruited from leading professional bodies, Landscape Institute, Design Council, Institute of Place Management and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
As the Task Force continues to roll out its support programme, a number of themes are beginning to emerge as priorities for towns and cities looking to develop their local high streets.
High Streets Task Force Research Lead, Professor Cathy Parker of the Institute of Place Management and Manchester Metropolitan University said:
“We’re delighted that the High Streets Task Force has been able to kick start its support for place leaders across the country after working virtually throughout lockdown.
“Visiting high streets and meeting the people that make them is inspiring and helps our Experts to fully appreciate local challenges and priorities. What we’ve seen so far is great enthusiasm and ambition from councils, businesses and community groups.”
Task Force Project Director, Matthew Colledge, said:
“There is a lot of work happening in local communities to access new investment as well as react to trends such as the recent increase in online retail and remote working.”
“We’re finding that specialist support to help establish new partnerships and local collaboration can give many places more capacity and focus. In practice, this could mean bringing community champions into a formal town partnership, and developing new projects that make high streets unique and resilient, like expanding the local offer of independent businesses, investing to attracting new employers, or planning for more sustainable travel links.”
The Task Force will continue to work with its first group of 70 towns through to Summer 2022, when a new group of locations will be offered expert support.
Alongside this, any town can access the range of online guidance available via the High Streets Task Force website. One location that has done this successfully is Newquay, Cornwall, which has formed a Town Team during lockdown and is commissioning a development framework for the town.