The Future High Streets Forum brings together civic and business leaders across retail, property and hospitality sectors - big and small - including the Post Office, Boots UK, John Lewis, Costa, the British Independent Retailers Association, the Association of Town and City Management, the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Property Federation.
Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk co-chaired the first meeting of the forum with Alex Gourlay, Chief Executive, Health and Beauty Division, Alliance Boots, where they discussed next steps for the high street renewal.
Mr Prisk said that the forum builds on the foundations of Mary Portas’s High Street Review.
As part of this, the minister published a short summary of high street progress to date, including:
- the creation of 330 Town Teams and 27 Portas Pilots which are working hard to reinvigorate their local high street - this includes Market Rasen, which has opened 2 community shops, run an arts exhibition to attract visitors and reinvigorated the local market; the market recently won a prestigious award to recognise pioneering local entrepreneurship
- the launch of the Love Your Local market campaign with over 400 markets and 2,000 new traders taking part, giving budding entrepreneurs a chance to take their first step on the business ladder for free or tables under a tenner
- the High Street Innovation fund, which supported those councils with the most empty shops or affected by the 2011 riots, including Manchester City which is hosting a 2 day art festival to showcase local talent and featuring artistic installations from local students; 4 empty properties will be brought back into use, and over 20 retail window spaces will be redesigned
And to continue the lessons of the Portas Review, Mr Prisk also announced a £1 million package of mentoring and support for town teams across the country.
Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk said:
“Over the last year this government has worked hard to help boost the high street, including initiatives to simplify planning, revamp the public realm, cut the business rate burden and revive local markets.
“Now, the Future High Streets Forum will take a joint the lead in driving forward these initiatives and providing the strategic leadership needed to analyse the competition and tackle the difficult problems which conventional high streets need to address.”
In its first meeting the Future High Streets Forum considered how to ensure that help for high streets continues to be available right across the country. Mr Prisk asked them to:
- help accelerate the programme of local mentoring established in response to the Portas review
- advise the government how better use could be made of existing buildings, to bring preople back to live in town centres, increasing footfall and supporting shops
- support the expansion of initiatives such as Love Your Local Markets and pop-up shops across the country
- research into a practical toolkit to help town teams futureproof their high streets
- explore solutions to barriers like local parking policy
Mr Prisk has appointed the Association of Town and City Management to run a 2 year package of peer-to-peer support for the 27 Portas Pilots and 330 town teams across the country worth £1 million.
The package will draw on the expertise from over 30 expert organisations, including the British Council of Shopping Centres, Association of Convenience Stores and the British Parking Association, to provide advice and training to Town Teams on every aspect of the high street, from retail and tourism to night time economy, public space design and age-accessibility.
Through workshops, secondments and mentoring, the support programme will help town teams to drive local momentum, share lessons learnt and achieve their goals.
The terms of reference and detail of full membership for the Future High Streets Forum can be found on the forum page.
Full detail of the Association of Town and City Management’s new support scheme can be found on their website.
Further information on progress can be found in the summary report, The Future of High Streets.