High streets should combine local and expert knowledge to thrive

University retail expertise features in the Government’s new ‘High Street Report’

The new government report is expected to be taken forward by a new High Streets Task Force

The new government report is expected to be taken forward by a new High Streets Task Force

Town and city centres need to engage diverse groups of people, combining leadership and partnerships with local and expert knowledge to address the range of different issues they are facing, according to retail and place management experts at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Recommendations from academics at the University’s Institute of Place Management (IPM) feature in a new government report outlining radical new approaches to supporting the transformation of high streets and town centres.

The IPM, a professional body supporting people committed to developing, managing and making places better, was commissioned by the UK Government to collect evidence and contribute to the new “High Street Report”, published in December 2018.

As part of an expert panel chaired by retailer Sir John Timpson, the IPM was asked to diagnose the issues facing the UK’s high streets and town centres before advising on the best practical measures that central government can take to help.

The panel’s recommendations cover three areas: the Town Centre Task Force, the Future High Streets Fund and short-term measures to help high streets and town centres.

Cathy Parker, Co-Chair of the IPM and Professor of Marketing and Retail Enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “The High Street Report is a vital step in identifying the way forward for regenerating town and city centres. This is dependent on local leadership and partnership working that engages a broad spectrum of people locally.”

Professor Cathy Parker, Co-Chair of the IPM

Simon Quin, who also Co-Chairs the IPM, added: “We are very grateful to our members, along with members of The BID Foundation who brought together over 200 local stakeholders to discuss the future of town centres and inform the Government’s final publication.”

The High Street Report was published alongside the IPM’s own publication “High Street 2030: Achieving Change”, which details the findings of the research undertaken by the team.

The report was commissioned to support the work of the Minister for the High Street, Jake Berry, and the Expert Panel appointed to look at the future of the high street. The IPM organised six consultations with local high street users in Holmfirth, Altrincham, Bristol, Shrewsbury, Aldershot and at the Teenage Market in Bolton.

The report summarises the views of several hundred participants who provided their views and experience of high street issues.

Dr Steve Millington, a Director of the IPM and Principal Investigator for the project, explained: “The High Street 2030 report details the findings of our individual evidence sessions and concludes that we should not be looking to create identikit high streets. There is no one solution.

“The workshops we undertook with a range of stakeholders showed the variation in different towns, the stages they are at and the different issues they are facing.

“The fact that high streets are subject to so many forces of change means we cannot just hope for the best. Our report demonstrates that local action can be very effective and, using the evidence collected in the workshops, we have been able to present some ideas that can help all places.”

Recommendations from the High Street Report and the IPM’s High Street 2030 report are expected to be taken forward by the government’s new High Streets Task Force, once it is established.

The Task Force will work in conjunction with the £675 million Future High Street Fund, which was announced in the 2018 Autumn Budget, to help town centres plan better spaces for their communities.

The full reports and recommendations can be viewed on the government website.

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