So a few weeks on from Mary Portas’s report and we have the first signs of something positive potentially coming from it. As part of her review, Ms Portas recommended that town centres be managed through new “town teams” who would be responsible for developing businesses in the area.
Now the government is looking for 12 ‘run down’ High Streets in England to share £1m to help them regenerate. The competition introduces the idea of ‘town teams’, made up of landlords, shopkeepers, residents, and the local authority and is asking them to come up with a vision for their High Street – and a share in the cash.
Areas will bid for support from a dedicated team and Ms Portas herself, but quite how in this market they will decide which High Streets are most deserving I don’t know. As expected the government have described this as a ‘golden ticket’ for town centres, but I fail to see how it will make a significant difference. One million spread between 12 centres is frankly nothing.
The Local Government Association are certainly not impressed and any scheme will have to be run at least in part with their cooperation. So unless the government give local authorities some additional powers (and money) it does appear to be rather an empty gesture.
Councils (and voters) won’t want to see short-term schemes – they want to see some substantial long term changes to their town centres to help them regenerate. Even if as the government is suggesting, this is being Introduced as a pilot to address specific local issues and to kick start other towns into action it will still need funding – but from where?
Perhaps it’s time to ‘hit the supermarkets’ for some funding to undo the damage they have caused of the last 25 years?