High Streets Task Force deploys experts to help unlock potential of high streets

The High Streets Task Force will meet place leaders in 14 locations throughout March to advise on local plans to revitalise town and city centres across England.

This Task Force pilot is to shape tailored support available across England later this year, including data on place performance, training, and expert advice.

National tour of High Streets starts in Accrington (Lancashire) and Thornton Heath (London) on March 6th and ends in Withington (Manchester) on March 31st.

Experts from the High Streets Task Force will be visiting 14 local communities and meeting with place leaders to support plans to revitalise their high streets.

The visits are part of a pilot programme for the Task Force, appointed by government in 2019 after a review by Sir John Timpson found that many high streets need fresh thinking and some assistance to help effect change.

Starting in Accrington, Lancashire and Thornton Heath, Croydon, on 6th March, the Task Force will visit 14 locations to help address the challenges they face, and to refine support services that will available to towns and cities across England following the national launch of the High Streets Task Force later this year.

Local councils, business representatives, and community groups from each location will receive access to expert advice, data on high street performance, training, and the latest research on the management of town and city centres.

The Task Force – an alliance of placemaking experts from 13 organisations including professional bodies, civic organisations and data providers – is to roll out its range of tools, skills and training following its pilot period, to help more communities redefine their high streets.  Each of the 14 pilot locations have already received a report on their plans for transformation and have attended a training day at the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, lead partner of the High Streets Task Force.

Task Force Experts will prescribe products and services that best meet the needs of each  town and city centre they visit, helping to tackle a range of issues that could be blocking the potential of high streets  including planning, transport, urban design, resilience, and place leadership.

Simon Quin, Executive Director of the High Streets Task Force, said:

“We are currently experiencing a rapid and unprecedented decline in the fortunes of high street retail. It’s vital that we get beyond the headlines and deliver support to those that are on the ground, planning and delivering the evolution of our town and city centres.”

“Each place is unique, and has its own needs, challenges and opportunities. The High Streets Task Force is meeting with place leaders to ensure we can provide the best support. Data, training and evidence will help develop a better understanding of what should be done to redefine the high street, bringing people back to our town centres  with an offer that’s more than just retail.”

“Getting a full range of stakeholders together who bring local insight and knowledge of their high street is important, so that everyone can contribute and get involved in the vision; whether that be building a vibrant night time economy, drawing on local arts, culture and heritage, or creating space for unique independent businesses.”

In addition to expertise on specific challenges, the High Streets Task Force will provide training on place making to support those involved in transforming high streets, and will bring a range of local organisations together that help support and deliver plans. This development of skills and knowledge is complemented by data on footfall and perceptions of high streets, to best inform efforts to improve the performance of town and city centres.

The locations being visited by the Task Force during March are:

Salford – Swinton Town centre

Croydon – Thornton Heath

Staffordshire Moorlands – Cheadle

Rushmoor – Aldershot Town Centre

Birmingham – Stirchley

Hyndburn – Accrington Town Centre

South Lakeland – Kendal

Preston – Friargate

Coventry – Coventry City Centre

Hartlepool – Hartlepool Town Centre

Cheshire West and Chester – Ellesmere Port Town Centre

Sandwell – West Bromwich Town Centre

Knowsley – Huyton Town Centre

Manchester – Withington District Centre

Following its launch in July 2020, the High Streets Task Force will visit more than 200 local communities to help their transformation over the next four years, and support will also be available to every town and city that requests it via a range of online products and services, including data dashboards, a repository of evidence and resources, and webinars.

The Task Force will continue to provide updates on its work with high streets throughout its pilot period, and on the development of products and services which will be available to towns and cities following its national launch.

Individuals and organisations that may wish to receive support from the High Streets Task Force can register their interest now, by visiting www.highstreetstaskforce.org.uk

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