Last updated: 5 March 2020

High Streets Task Force deploys experts to help unlock potential of high streets

The High Streets Task Force will meet place leaders in 14 locations throughout March to advise on local plans to revitalise town and city centres across England. Part of the Task Force pilot, the visits start in Accrington (Lancashire) and Thornton Heath (London) on March 6th and end in Withington (Manchester) on March 31st.

The 'Unlocking your Place Potential' visits are part of the pilot programme for the Task Force, helping to address the challenges that high streets face and to refine support services that will available to towns and cities across England later this year.

Local councils, business representatives, and community groups from each location will receive access to expert advice, data on high street performance, training, and the latest research on the management of town and city centres.

The Task Force - an alliance of placemaking experts from 13 organisations including professional bodies, civic organisations and data providers – is to roll out its range of tools, skills and training following its pilot period, to help more communities redefine their high streets. Each of the 14 pilot locations have already received a report on their plans for transformation and have attended a training day at the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, lead partner of the High Streets Task Force.

Task Force Experts will prescribe products and services that best meet the needs of each town and city centre they visit, helping to tackle a range of issues that could be blocking the potential of high streets including planning, transport, urban design, resilience, and place leadership.

Simon Quin, Executive Director of the High Streets Task Force, said:

“We are currently experiencing a rapid and unprecedented decline in the fortunes of high street retail. It’s vital that we get beyond the headlines and deliver support to those that are on the ground, planning and delivering the evolution of our town and city centres.”

“Each place is unique, and has its own needs, challenges and opportunities. The High Streets Task Force is meeting with place leaders to ensure we can provide the best support. Data, training and evidence will help develop a better understanding of what should be done to redefine the high street, bringing people back to our town centres with an offer that’s more than just retail.”

“Getting a full range of stakeholders together who bring local insight and knowledge of their high street is important, so that everyone can contribute and get involved in the vision; whether that be building a vibrant night time economy, drawing on local arts, culture and heritage, or creating space for unique independent businesses.”

In addition to expertise on specific challenges, the High Streets Task Force will provide training on place making to support those involved in transforming high streets, and will bring a range of local organisations together that help support and deliver plans. This development of skills and knowledge is complemented by data on footfall and perceptions of high streets, to best inform efforts to improve the performance of town and city centres.

The locations being visited by the Task Force during March are:

  • Salford - Swinton Town centre

  • Croydon - Thornton Heath

  • Staffordshire Moorlands - Cheadle

  • Rushmoor - Aldershot Town Centre

  • Birmingham - Stirchley

  • Hyndburn – Accrington Town Centre

  • South Lakeland - Kendal

  • Preston - Friargate

  • Coventry - Coventry City Centre

  • Hartlepool - Hartlepool Town Centre

  • Cheshire West and Chester - Ellesmere Port Town Centre

  • Sandwell - West Bromwich Town Centre

  • Knowsley - Huyton Town Centre

  • Manchester - Withington District Centre

Following its launch in July 2020, the High Streets Task Force will visit more than 200 local communities to help their transformation over the next four years, and support will also be available to every town and city that requests it via a range of online products and services, including data dashboards, a repository of evidence and resources, and webinars.

  • Individuals and organisations that may wish to receive support from the High Streets Task Force can register their interest now on the register page.