High streets and town centres in 2030

This 2019 resource from the House of Commons puts forwards a series of recommendations around how high streets can survive and thrive by 2030, based on evidence submitted to a Select Committee inquiry. It covers the key systematic issues impacting high streets, the ways they should aim to evolve in the future, the steps taken to get there, and the future of retail. It concludes by setting out a series of recommendations for the future high street, including the creation of the Future High Streets Fund and High Streets Task Force.

Date added 6 September 2021
Last updated 6 September 2021

Based on evidence submitted to an inquiry into the future of high streets and town centres in 2030, in this resource the House of Commons puts forwards a series of recommendations around how high streets can survive and thrive by 2030. It is centred around a more multifunctional vision of high streets, conceiving of them as 'activity-based community gathering places where retail is a smaller part of a wider range of uses and activities and where green space, leisure, arts and culture and health and social care services combine with housing to create a space based on social and community interactions' (p.3).

The report begins by outlining some of the key systemic challenges confronting high streets and town centres, including the impact of out-of-town shopping, retail parks, and online shopping; too much space being given to retail; fragmented property ownership; business rates; and issues around business taxation. To address these challenges, the report outlines a few key characteristics that high streets should aim towards in the future, as below:

High streets in 2030

Activity-based

The evidence suggested there has been a traditional over-emphasis on retail in our centres, and that it should no longer be considered the main anchor. Instead, high streets should aim to become more multifunctional, providing space for services, leisure activities, residential, arts and culture, as well as retail.

Community

High streets and town centres should be considered as the heart of local communities. It is important for them to include spaces and activities to encourage social interactivity for the community, with places for people to meet each other.

Gathering places

To become a meeting point for the local community, high streets and town centres should offer 'gathering places’ – and hence, public spaces for people to meet and greenspaces to enhance community wellbeing. 

Future-proofing

Any plans for the future of high streets needs to be guided by a forwards-facing vision, which is flexible and aware of changes still to come, such as through technological developments, with the idea of ongoing 'place gardening’ important to consider.

To enable the above characteristics to be achieved, the report then moves onto detailing several key things high streets need in place:

How to get there

  1. Strong leadership and collaboration – strong leadership is needed to drive high street transformation, with local authorities acting as catalysts for change. Collaboration between multiple place stakeholders is also important.
  2. An intervention – to achieve larger-scale structural change, interventions will be needed, led by the local authority with cross-sector, stakeholder, and community collaboration.
  3. Resources – the evidence collected indicated there are pressures on local authority financial and staffing budgets to help high streets and town centres, which will need addressing going forwards.
  4. The Future High Streets Fund – this fund has been put forwards to address the above pressures on local authority budgetary cuts, and to help transform high streets and town centres.

The report next outlines the steps to be taken by central government, around business rates, property investments, tax reform, planning, use classes, and permitted development rights. Before moving onto detailing the local actions needed around high street transformation, such as local plans, place branding, supporting local traders, and place partnerships. The report next turns its attention to the future of retail, suggesting that there will be a strong future focus around experience and convenience. Finally, the report concludes by putting forwards plans for the High Streets Task Force, now in operation.