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Help on the high street

ICAEW Head of Enterprise Nick Levine looks at how the High Streets Task Force and Future High Streets Fund could save the high street.

Nick Levine

February 2019

The great British high street is undergoing fundamental changes. The convenience of online shopping and increasing business rates have affected retailers through spiralling costs, a drop in footfall and by not being on a level playing field with their online counterparts who do not have to pay rates.

That said, the high street shouldn’t be written off just yet. It still has immeasurable value by being a central meeting point for local communities and through offering experiences (ie, restaurants, hair salons and car mechanics) which cannot be provided for online.

In order to counter its decline the government has recently published The High Street Report, which makes a number of recommendations for how the high street can be saved.

High Streets Task Force

One of the main recommendations from the paper is to create a High Streets Task Force. It is planned that the Task Force will create a single voice for town centres to help foster best practice with regard to support for networking, data sharing and providing expert support.

That said, the report highlights the importance of including local communities on the basis that every town centre is different. One of the central tenets of the Task Force is to identify and give resources to town centre champions in order to evangelise and drive the vision of their communities and local high streets.

These individuals will be agreed on by consensus between the local council, chambers of commerce, Local Enterprise Partnerships and community groups.

High Streets Fund

As previously reported in the December 2018 edition of London Accountant, the High Street Fund was first announced during the 2018 Budget, and will comprise of £675m to help town centres make better use of spaces for their communities. Similar to the High Streets Task Force, The High Street report outlines the importance of the need to include local communities due to improvement not being a one size fits all approach.

This will allow communities to decide whether funds should be used on projects related to transport links or best use of space. It is planned that members of the High Street Task Force will support local project teams to decide whether the funds should be spent on the likes of improving transport links or planning related to the best use of space.

Other Recommendations

The High Streets Report also suggests:

  • The creation of a National High Street Perfect Day to encourage cleaning up of high streets
  • Progressive parking restrictions to ensure that people are not put off from journeying into town.
  • Encouraging landlords to think innovatively about how to best use empty properties.

Nick Levine is ICEAW Head of Enterprise

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