Town centre management association backs Portas call for “Town Teams”


The first of the 28 recommendations in the Mary Portas Review of the future of the High Street calls for “a visionary, strategic and strong operational management structure for high streets.” She calls them “Town Teams.”


The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), the national organisation for individuals and organisations concerned with the maintenance, commercial and social development of the UK’s town and city centres, fully agrees with this recommendation.


There are already over 400 managers working for local authorities, Business Improvement Districts, local partnerships, chambers of commerce and others to oversee or influence much of what happens in their town and city centres, and there is clear evidence that managed towns perform better than others.


A recently completed survey of managers by the ATCM reveals that  93% of them see “engaging with local business”  as one of their most important roles, and 73% are already involved in partnership management.


Says ATCM Chief Executive Martin Blackwell, “Our members are extremely well placed in their local communities to help deliver key elements of Mary’s vision.”


But at a time when their abilities and roles are the ones which could prove most useful to fulfilling this vision, 55% reported in the survey that their job was under review because of public sector cuts. Part of the problem is that whilst they can create and support a vision, the powers or duties which would enable them to fulfil that vision remain with others.


“Mary has rightly pointed out that town teams could include key landlords, large and small shopkeepers, council representatives with specific knowledge of planning and development, the mayor or MP, other local businesses and service providers, and local residents” says Blackwell, “and many of the local partnerships that support town centre initiatives already follow that model. Most Town and City Centre Managers are crying out to be “let off the leash” and just get on with it.”


But another sign of the times is that the number of partnerships supporting managers has declined from just under 50% in 2007, to 36% in 2011.


“Mary’s recommendation is one which calls out to re-energise such partnerships and managers where they already exist as “Town Teams” who would be the recognised champions of the high street,” says Blackwell. To quote from the report, “They would be the high street’s charismatic voice, spearheading a clear local vision for retailing and applying professional management to our high streets. And they would be the glue that holds stakeholders together – local people, businesses, landlords, the local authority and others.


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