Communities secretary Eric Pickles has thrown the Government’s weight behind town teams, an idea championed by Mary Portas to offer training and support to revive ailing town centres.
The Government will offer workshops on planning powers, the future of the high street, the basics of business improvement districts, running a town team and the importance of footfall and business planning.
The training and mentoring is to be targeted at the leaders of 350 town teams across the country which were created following the recommendations of the Portas Review.
The initiative comes as retail expert Mary Portas gives evidence to the select committee retail inquiry into high streets today [September 2] and former Focus boss Bill Grimsey prepares to launch his ‘alternative’ review on Wednesday. The Department for Communities and Local Government said the timing of the support for town teams is unrelated.
Workshops will be provided by dedicated local high street experts from organisations such as the Association of Town and City Management, Centre for Local Economic Strategies and Business in the Community.
The support is part of measures put in place by the Government to equip local communities with the powers and knowledge they need to respond to changing trends and develop plans that are the right fit for their communities.
Pickles said: “We have reset the terms to allow high streets to thrive in the digital age with tax breaks for small businesses, a simplified planning system and fairer parking rules.
“We’ve also followed many of the recommendations set out in the Portas Review, but it is now for ‘town teams’ to come together and plan what they want from their high streets, not just today, but in 10, 15, 20 years’ time.”
He added: “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model but with the help of these dedicated local high street experts town teams will have the tools to make the changes they want, and support the high streets of the future.”
The programme will run until 2015 and towns will receive additional tailored support on running a market, branding, volunteering and working with investors and developers.