Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change and member of the Government’s High Street Task Force, says:
“Today’s report from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee recognises that our town centres are vital community spaces that are too important to be lost. Action needs to be taken at all levels to support high streets as big retail continues to move out and risks leaving behind shuttered ghost towns and disconnected communities.
“The report quite rightly points to well-meaning but short-term and fragmented approaches to regenerating our high streets. Funding has been made available, but it risks falling short of realising its potential because accessing it is needlessly competitive and centrally controlled. The people of Hartlepool or Oldham understand the needs of their local high streets far better than a civil servant in Whitehall, for example.
“Local high street and town centre strategies are much needed but it is essential that these are created locally, in partnership with local business, property owners, local authorities and most importantly, the local community. The evolution of Business Improvement Districts in Scotland to include strong community voice in decisions about the high street is really beginning to make a difference. This must be an aspiration everywhere.
“Greater community ownership and access to high street buildings is a cornerstone to reimagining our high streets and ensuring they are relevant and sustainable. From Bodmin to Hebden Bridge, Maidstone to Manchester, I’ve seen first-hand how a strong community presence on the high street can bring vibrancy and long-term stability. And so I’m pleased to see the challenges communities are facing accessing the Community Ownership Fund outlined in the report and recommendations to make it more accessible to community groups. The committee’s call for future rounds of high streets funding to support place leadership and placemaking resources alongside capital investment is also absolutely right.
“Finally, I’m delighted to see the report calling on government to explore legislating for Community Improvement Districts (CIDs). Power to Change is currently working in partnership with the Mayor of London to establish England’s first CID pilots. We stand ready to share our learning with government and the committee to inform the development of any future legislation.”