07 October 2020, 07:30 AM
  • Professionals across a range of industries have been brought in to help transform towns across England over the next four years in a first-of-its-kind ‘experts register’
High Streets Task Force appoints 150 experts to “reimagine” town centres

More than 150 experts have been appointed by The High Streets Task Force to provide free advice and mentoring to help town centres across England tackle complex barriers to change.

Commissioned by the government in 2019, the task force aims to help communities and local governments transform their high streets, 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. It brings together experienced professionals across a broad range of specialisms, including architecture, planning, sustainable design, place leadership and civic engagement.

The experts will offer an array 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.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retailers’ Association said the expert advice would be a “positive move” towards developing “high streets of the future” - especially in the wake of Covid – but he called on the task force to ensure they consult with small independents.

“Covid-19 has really accelerated the changes we were already seeing on the high street,” he said. “Our main ‘ask’ in all of this is that they talk and consult with the small independent retail community and not just the large chains. Independents are part of the community and already recognise the need to change and can make a significant contribution to the new high streets.”

Rob Pearson, executive director of Nexus Planning, is one of the experts appointed by The High Streets Task Force. He said he was excited to “challenge” old high street conventions. “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.”

Professor Cathy Parker, co-director of the Institute of Place Management and research lead for the High Streets Task Force, said their work with high streets has laid bare the vast range of strategic and practical issues that local authorities 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,” Parker said.

Remote and in-person sessions will be held starting in late 2020, with places selected by the task force based on local need.

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