On the day that the High Streets Task Force officially launches its support, I wanted to continue to share my thoughts as to ‘how we can do high streets differently’.
We need to ask; can we build back better?
Lockdown has forced us to put a pause on life. We as a people need to ask, can we build back better? Do we want high streets dominated by landlords that have no connection to an area, or do we want to see community businesses and local people driving forward an area.
I believe we can and the increasing interest in Community Improvement Districts is telling me that people want a different future and a different connection to their area. Amazing orgs such Power to Change are helping to fund brilliant community businesses. It is these local leaders that need to be driving the high street agenda.
We need to bring people together to shape the high street. Do not start with engaging external consultants: start with engaging the community. Even better, get out the way and let the community lead the way.
Bonnie Hewson, Programme Manager Power to Change, 8 June 2020
Our high streets need strengthened local leadership
So, I am delighted that part of the reason the Task Force has been set-up is to strengthen local leadership in high streets and town centres in England.
The High Streets Task Force was commissioned by the government in 2019 as part of its Plan for the High Street and in response to recommendations of an expert panel on the high street chaired by the entrepreneur Sir John Timpson. The Task Force remit, agreed with MHCLG, is to deliver support to local authorities, develop place leaders, coordinate a national approach to town centres and to provide data and intelligence on town centres at a national and local level.
Places are like jigsaws. 1000 individual pieces have to come together to bring the picture to life. It can be frustrating, it can take a long time, but, with dedication and drive, the picture can be put together. Piece by piece. But it starts with leadership. We believe that the leaders who can start the jigsaw are the local community. We intend to unlock and this leadership and put the civic movement at the heart of the debate on the future of our high streets.
If you allow people to take steps to meet their neighbours, they will. Do you have a ‘a central heart’ – a ‘gathering space’ where you can meet as a community to talk about your high street? Look around your area? Who is leading the debate about trying to make the are better? The answer is in you. The answer is within the community.
You should start by looking for the Community HEART.
The High Streets Task Force states: “We have a vision for town centres and high streets that are at the heart of their communities, with a unique sense of place and a strong identity”. A community is the lifeblood of every place. It is why, every high street needs a Community HEART Strategy.
Civic Voice is pleased to be involved in the High Streets Task Force and we will be urging community groups to sign up and be the leaders that their local area needs.
If you want to part of a growing movement wanting to shape our towns and cities, I suggest that you sign up for Civic Voice’s #inconversation events on for the w/c 22nd June.
- June 23rd: Phil Prentice, Scotland’s Town Partnership will be sharing perspectives as to how the Possilpark traders are pulling together to pilot a Community Improvement District.
- June 24th: Vidhya Alakeson, Power to Change will be sharing her thoughts as to why #communitybusiness has big part to play in the future of our high streets
- June 25th: Patrice Frey, Main Street US will be talking to us about Main Street America as we consider whether the approach will work in the UK
At Civic Voice, our goal is to continue to give communities a voice at the national level on the issues and decisions that affect you locally. I pledge to you that we will continue to collaborate with communities to make great places.
Civic Voice is a part of the Government’s High Streets Task Force. The High Streets Task Force has been set-up to strengthen local leadership in high streets and town centres in England. It will do this by providing information, advice, training, knowledge and data – helping people to make a positive difference to their local communities.