Locally-driven approach needed for high streets

Sir John Timpson and other retail industry leaders have urged for a community-focused approach to tackling the challenges facing high streets and town centres.

A new report, published by the Town Centres Expert Panel, includes practical recommendations to reinvigorate town centres by creating a community hub which, alongside retail, includes leisure and social services and more residential property.

Chaired by Timpson, the panel has called for an ‘Upside Down Government’ approach which would empower local leaders to implement their plans to reinvent their town centres, ideally supported with expert advice from a Town Centres Task Force and funding from the government’s Future High Streets Fund. The report strongly puts community involvement and local leadership at the centre of a plan to create the town centres of the future.

Timpson said: “When the panel was formed, we knew high streets would never be the same again, but we were delighted to discover places where imaginative developments have increased footfall and reduced the number of empty shops. 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.”

High Streets Minister Jake Berry added: “High streets and town centres play an important role in the life of our communities. I thank Sir John and the panel members who have worked extremely hard and proposed tangible ways to keep these treasured spaces alive and thriving for generations. We have already taken action by announcing plans to set up a Future High Streets Fund and Task Force, alongside slashing business rates for up to a third of small retailers. We will carefully consider these recommendations.”

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