Retail industry experts, including Sir John Timpson, have called for a community-focused approach to tackling the challenges facing high streets and town centres in a new report for the government.
The Town Centres Expert Panel, made up representatives from the retail, property and design sectors, has published practical recommendations to reinvigorate town centres, creating community hubs which, alongside retail, include leisure and social services and more residential property.
The panel’s recommendations include:
- The creation of the Town Centre Task Force supporting local leaders to act as a single voice in finding unique solutions for communities.
- Setting up a Future High Streets Fund to help local authorities with both finance and resource. In October’s Budget, the Chancellor announced a £675 million for this purpose.
- Immediate measures to help high streets and town centres including a ‘National High Street Perfect Day’ – one day a year where local communities would take ownership, ensuring their town centre looked as good as possible.
- The panel encourages local communities to think innovatively about empty properties and welcomes the government’s Open Doors scheme which opens empty shops to community groups.
- Local authorities are also encouraged to review parking provision in favour of local businesses to encourage footfall.
The panel’s chair Sir John Timpson called for an ‘Upside Down Government’ approach which would empower local leaders to implement their plans to reinvent their town centres. They would be supported with expert advice from a Town Centres Task Force.
“By helping our towns create their own individual community hub, I believe we will have vibrant town centres to provide a much-needed place for face to face contact in the digital age. “
“I have learnt, from my own business, that the best way to get things done is to give people on the front line the freedom to get on with the job in the way they know best. We are applying the same Upside Down Government principle to the development of our town centres, with our Town Centre Task Force there to mentor, encourage and clear any obstacles out of the way while giving the clear message to inspirational local leaders that they are free to turn their plans into reality. “