Towns across England supported to build on local character in transformation efforts

Published 23 June 2021
Last updated 23 June 2021

The High Streets Task Force has consulted a number of town and city centres across England to find out more about their transformation strategies and help place leaders to address their local challenges and make the most of opportunities.

12 locations have been the first to benefit from an ‘Unlocking your Place Potential’ diagnosis, facilitated by a Task Force Expert, including a three-hour online workshop with key stakeholders from the community and a virtual tour of local high streets. The support examined plans and gathered feedback as well as identifying additional support from the Task Force that will be delivered over the coming months to support high street transformation in the location.

The locations, ranging from Rochdale in the North West to Plymouth in the South West, are part of 70 selected in March as the Task Force’s first cohort of supported high streets. This support is being provided remotely until COVID-19 restrictions are eased. The first locations selected to receive the ‘Unlocking your Place Potential’ support are listed below:

  • Bradford
  • Burnley
  • Longton, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Darwen
  • Earlestown
  • Hackney
  • Hastings
  • Horncastle
  • Hyde
  • Newcastle upon Tyne (Blackett St)
  • Plymouth
  • Rochdale

Following each stakeholder meeting and virtual tour, local place leaders receive an Expert report from the High Streets Task Force, diagnosing key strengths and challenges for the local area and recommending next steps to achieve the best outcomes for the community.

The support, mostly delivered throughout May and June, has revealed a feeling of optimism across England’s high streets, despite the challenges of responding to COVID-19’s impact. High Streets Task Force Experts highlighted many strengths across the locations visited, including local heritage and architecture, forward-thinking place leaders, an increased focus on unique, independent businesses, and many local plans for investment and development.

70 locations have been selected for Task Force support through 2021/22 (orange locations are first cohort of 15 commencing support in May 2021)

Enthusiasm and engagement from a number of community groups, businesses, councillors and local authority staff has been a key feature of this first round of Task Force support as places look to harness their collective effort to deliver new visions for their towns and cities.

Each location will now receive further Expert support around specific issues identified during their initial consultation and a future workshop to provide more opportunity for a range of local stakeholders to influence local plans.

Mark Robinson, Chair of the High Streets Task Force, said:

“The High Streets Task Force is delighted to start its programme of support in earnest. We provide a tried and tested way for local place leaders and stakeholders to improve their high streets by drawing on new approaches and best practice from around the country.”

“Our Experts are also working with each town to learn what local recovery and transformation looks like. The right approach won’t be identical for every high street but we can provide some inspiration and reassurance to those putting in the hard work to deliver unique, modern town centres to match our changing lifestyles.”

Reflecting on the delivery, Professor Cathy Parker, Research Lead for the High Streets Task Force said:

"It is heartening to see the amount of people that care about their high streets and town centres and very rewarding to be able to help them achieve their ambitions. However, there is still a lot to do. Local businesses and the wider community are still not involved enough in decision making so we have to resolve that. Councils, working on their own, will not transform their high streets"

The High Streets Task Force support will continue until 2024 with 150 locations supported directly as well as free resources and guidance offered online to every high street.

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Read a profile of Earlestown and their work on local transformation, supported by the Task Force. (Liverpool Echo)