Westminster Social Policy Forum

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Next steps for high streets and towns in the UK

Morning, Wednesday, 15th May 2024

This conference will discuss next steps for regeneration of high streets and towns across the UK, examining policy, support and implementation.

Taking place following publication of the Government’s Long-Term Plan for Towns, announcing investment into 55 towns in the UK, including seven towns in Scotland and four in Wales, it will bring stakeholders and policymakers together to examine key issues and opportunities for development and regeneration.

Areas for discussion include:

  • increased devolution of decision-making powers to local authorities
  • growing community engagement
  • tackling anti-social behaviour
  • investment in town centres and stimulating economic growth

It also follows the publication of the Labour Party’s recently published Five point plan for high streets, which includes proposals to replace the business rates system with a new system of business property taxation, alongside proposed measures to tackle anti-social behaviour and revamp empty shops, pubs and community spaces.

Delegates will consider priorities for new Town Boards in bringing together community leaders, employers, and local authorities with the aim of developing a shared vision for towns and overseeing funding.

They will look at priorities and best practice for engagement with local culture and communities, and achieving the aim of ensuring that local people are at the heart of decisions, as well as next steps for making high streets more attractive and accessible.

Sessions in the agenda assess the impact of increased powers for local authorities to repurpose vacant properties and enhance collaboration between local businesses and community groups, in the context of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, and the role of the High Street Accelerator programme and High Street Rental Auctions.

Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in towns is a further key focus for the conference, with the Government’s aim to significantly reduce neighbourhood crime by 2030. Delegates will assess proposals in the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, and strategies for improving security, including hotspot policing.

The agenda examines policy and implementation around the creation of ‘new towns’, with ambitions for regeneration through delivery of thousands of new homes and potential local authority powers to increase the supply of social housing. Attendees will also look at next steps for transport connectivity, with discussion on the Government’s infrastructure targets, and addressing inconsistent implementation of devolution powers and funding.

Further sessions will explore the impact of high business rates, proposals for reform and changing consumer behaviours on high streets and economic growth.

We are pleased to be able to include keynote sessions with: Jacob Young, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, DLUHC; and Robert Lloyd Sweet, Senior Policy Advisor, Historic England.

Overall, areas for discussion include:

  • Long-Term Plan for Towns:
    • assessing proposals outlined in the Government’s plan - further options for policy
    • strategies and opportunities for redeveloping high streets and town centres - community engagement and empowerment - priorities and key issues for Town Boards
  • high streets and businesses: the future of retail on England’s high streets and high street competitiveness - key issues for employment and local business growth - promoting community identity
  • net zero: putting in place the investment, innovation and capabilities needed to deliver net zero - best practice for support and implementation of sustainable development for retail businesses
  • housing: strategies for tackling supply, affordability and access in the UK - assessing the potential impact of the creation of new towns to increase the housing supply
  • regeneration best practice: what can be learned from successful town centre development - addressing key challenges - discussing alternative policy approaches to regeneration and housing
  • transport: priorities for developing infrastructure and services to make high streets more accessible - improving regional connectivity to increase visitor numbers
  • anti-social behaviour: addressing issues causing increased anti-social behaviour in town centres across the UK - assessing proposals in the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from Defra; DBT; DfC, NI; DfI, NI; DLUHC; DfT; DWP; Home Office; Law Commission; RPC; The Scottish Government; UKIB and the Welsh Government.

Keynote Speakers

Jacob Young MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Robert Lloyd Sweet

Senior Policy Advisor, Historic England


Catherine Palmer

Director, Regeneration Delivery, Walker Sime

Ian Harvey

Founder, Civic Voice