Government-commissioned high streets report calls for planning capacity boost

The government's new High Streets Task Force, announced in October's Budget, should 'play a role in boosting local authority capacity to enable planning' to help revitalise town centres, a government-commissioned report has recommended.

High streets: fresh report published
High streets: fresh report published

In July, high streets minister Jake Berry MP announced that the government had appointed a new expert panel intended to "diagnose issues that currently affect the health of our high streets and advise on the best practical measures to help them thrive now and in the future".

The panel’s final report has been published today.

The document says that "planning provides key tools to enable local communities to shape and deliver their high streets agenda which when used wisely can bring great benefit".

The report says the government’s new High Streets Task Force, announced in the Budget, "should encourage action that can make planning decisions simpler, quicker and more aligned to local strategies".

The document also welcomes the announcements in the Budget of two consultations in respect of planning for town centres. These proposed introducing new permitted development (PD) rights allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and redeveloped as housing and making it easier for high street properties to be converted to other uses.

However, it adds, "we think there is more to do which is why we recommend that the Task Force plays a role in boosting local authority capacity to enable planning to support local areas and stakeholders to design effective and innovative high street and town centre strategies".

Elsewhere, the report says that the task force "should become well established as the go to place for best practice and innovative examples related to revitalising towns. It should be a route through which to build the capacity of local areas for active, collaborative place-making to improve".

It also says that the task force "should build a list of independent and multi-disciplined experts who have already helped towns put their ambitions into practice. These experts will support experimentation and help develop collaborative projects that are focused on transformational change".

Alongside the report, the government has also published the report High Street 2030: Achieving Change by professional body the Institute of Place Management which was commissioned by ministers to run a series of workshops to collect evidence to support the development of high street and town centre policy.

The document looks at various approaches to high street regeneration taken in towns and cities including Holmfirth in West Yorkshire; Bristol; Shrewsbury in Shropshire; Altrincham in Greater Manchester; and Aldershot in Hampshire.

A separate review of the high street, published in July by retail expert Bill Grimsey, said that councils should repurpose their town centres away from retail and allow areas outside the key commercial core to be converted to residential use.

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