The High Streets Task Force has appointed over 150 experienced professionals to work with towns in England over the next four years, supporting their transformation efforts and helping to tackle complex barriers to change.
Local authorities will receive free expert advice, mentoring and other help, funded by government, that can help them to evolve their town centres, progress local plans, bid for investment, and respond to the impact of COVID-19.
The new ‘experts register’ is the first of its kind in the UK – bringing together experienced professionals across a broad range of specialisms, from architecture to planning, to sustainable design, place leadership and civic engagement. The Task Force has recruited highly qualified experts from leading national bodies: Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Landscape Institute, Design Council, and the Institute of Place Management.
These new High Street Task Force Experts, Mentors and Facilitators will deliver a range of services, including workshops with local authorities and communities to explore and build local visions, mentoring for place leaders, and bespoke advice to help councils tackle complex issues that are blocking progress.
The Task Force has provided online support and resources for places since June 2020, focusing on COVID-19 response and recovery as well as longer term regeneration. Appointed Experts, Mentors and Facilitators will continue this work through a mix of remote and in-person delivery where appropriate, beginning in late 2020 with places selected by the Task Force based on local need.
Rob Pearson, executive director of Nexus Planning and appointed High Streets Task Force Expert, said: “This is such a wonderful opportunity to actively participate in re-imagining our high streets. I am most looking forward to meeting key stakeholders in the places they live, work and shop, in order to understand what makes each individual place tick, and also perhaps to challenge some of the old conventions around town centres and their modern-day function.”
In building the experts register, each body has identified a list of between ten and twelve areas of expertise which are represented by its membership. This approach ensures that towns are supported by those with specific expertise that are best placed to advise on their issues.
Professor Cathy Parker, co-director of the Institute of Place Management and Research Lead for the High Streets Task Force, said: “Our work with high streets has shown the vast range of strategic and practical issues that local authorities and other actors have to address, particularly after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are the very current challenges of ensuring communities can use their high streets with confidence, providing appropriate support for businesses and other organisations. At the same time, place leaders are managing the evolution of centres so they become vibrant community hubs.
“The Task Force recognises that it’s very difficult for one place to have all the answers to all these challenges. Our Experts, Mentors and Facilitators will help to build that capacity, providing expertise that’s really needed and simplifying the advisory landscape for places that are busy getting on with change.”
Simon Quin, executive director of the High Streets Task Force said: “Our Experts will work with places in greatest need. They bring deep insight into town centre change and experience of working with communities to build capacity.This will support the development of the collaborative and challenging visions our town centres require.
“The Experts have a broad range of experience and knowledge specialisms that will enable local partnerships to move forward. We want to thank RTPI, Landscape Institute, Design Council and its Built Environment Experts and Institute of Place Management for their support.
“Those appointed as High Streets Task Force Experts have at least five years’ experience and can demonstrate where they have helped solve similar complex place-based challenges relevant to their field. Experts, Mentors or Facilitators have all committed to the High Streets Task Force Charter which ensures high standards of professional conduct and ways of working.”