The regeneration of high streets in England has received a boost with the creation of a new government task force led by experts at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The University’s Institute of Place Management (IPM) has been awarded an £8.6 million contract by the government to lead its High Streets Task Force and deliver support to local authorities and communities who want to transform their high streets.
The IPM will head up a consortium of professional bodies, experts, data providers and community networks, who will provide expertise, knowledge, training and support to those involved in helping to regenerate town and city centres across the country.
The High Streets Task Force will also help to reinvent town centres as community hubs, while supporting local authorities applying to the Government’s £675 million Future High Street Fund.
Professor Cathy Parker, co-chair of the IPM at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Many of England’s high streets are at crisis point and are not the bustling hearts of their communities that they once were. Action needs to be taken locally and the Task Force will help councils, businesses and communities to make this happen.
“As the professional body that supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better, the IPM is perfectly placed to support the regeneration of high streets across the country.
“We are looking forward to working with our partners through the High Streets Task Force. With support and investment from the government and professionals across the country, we have a fantastic opportunity to develop places that are really valued by the local communities they serve.”
The Task Force is a key part of the government’s “Plan for the High Street”, which includes the Future High Street Fund. The recent Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s review of the UK’s high streets, chaired by Sir John Timpson, identified the need for hands-on support to help plan for future town centres.
The government has already announced cuts to business rates for smaller retailers in the UK in an effort to revitalise retail on the high street.
Announcing the Task Force, Jake Berry MP, High Streets Minister, said: “High streets and the way we use them are changing, and this Government is committed to helping communities to adapt. We want to see vibrant town centres where people live, shop, use services and spend their leisure time.
“But in order to evolve successfully, high streets must meet the needs of their local community and the key to this is strong local leadership. This is why we are providing additional support through a High Streets Task Force, drawing on the best expert advice, training and data that’s available.”
Leading the new consortium, the IPM brings proven experience and expertise to the regeneration of high streets. The Institute was previously commissioned by the government to collect evidence and contribute to the influential “High Street Report”, published in December 2018.
The IPM is already an authoritative voice for the high street and, with over 500 professional members and representing close to 100 Business Improvement Districts through The BID Foundation, will be building on existing expertise and data to add intelligence and insight around the needs of England’s town centre communities.
Simon Quin, co-chair of the IPM at Manchester Metropolitan University, added: “Our research has been instrumental in changing the understanding of how high streets function and how important local communities are to their regeneration.
“We are delighted to have been chosen to lead this important initiative and are very grateful for the support from our consortium of partners.”
While the IPM will lead the High Streets Task Force, the consortium will be managed by multinational professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The Task Force will form on 2 July with pilot delivery due start by September 2019. It will be fully operational by July 2020.