Experts appointed to help high streets respond to COVID-19

The High Streets Task Force has appointed more than 150 experienced professionals to work with towns in England over the next four years, supporting their transformation efforts and helping to tackle complex barriers to change.

Local authorities will receive free expert advice and mentoring, funded by government, that can help them to evolve their town centres, progress local plans, bid for investment, and respond to the impact of COVID-19.

Last July, the then chancellor Philip Hammond announced the Task Force initiative as part of a £675 million strategy to support retailers and revive Britain’s ailing town centres.

The new ‘experts register’ will bring together experienced professionals across a broad range of specialisms, from architecture to planning, to sustainable design, place leadership and civic engagement.

The Task Force has recruited highly qualified experts from leading national bodies: Royal Town Planning Institute, Landscape Institute, Design Council, and the Institute of Place Management.

The initiative has already provided online support and resources for since June this year, focusing on COVID-19 response and recovery, as well as longer term regeneration.

In building the experts register, each body has identified a list of between 10 and 12 areas of expertise which are represented by its membership. This approach ensures that towns are supported by those with specific expertise that are best placed to advise on their issues.

Cathy Parker, co-director of the Institute of Place Management and research lead for the High Streets Task Force, said: “Our work with high streets has shown the vast range of strategic and practical issues that local authorities and other actors 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.”

Simon Quin, executive director of the High Streets Task Force, added: “Our Experts will work with places in greatest need – they bring deep insight into town centre change and experience of working with communities to build capacity.”

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