Westminster Social Policy Forum

The future for towns - priorities for policy, investment and developing ‘Town Deals’

Morning, Tuesday, 15th October 2019

Central London


Delegates will assess the £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund and the prospects for it delivering on its aims of spreading growth more evenly across the country, creating new jobs and increasing economic activity.

They will also discuss priority areas for investment, best uses for additional funds and the development of the ‘Town Deal’ model - with the Communities Secretary announcing the opening of a competitive process for £600m of funding to towns and in light of the first ‘Town Deal’ being signed for Greater Grimsby.

The conference also follows the government response to the House of Lords report on regenerating seaside towns.

This set out Government’s commitment to the future of seaside towns through the Coastal Communities Fund and the Coastal Revival Fund. It included discussion on priorities for the Tourism Sector Deal such as the idea of Tourism Action Zones - and outlined work being done through the Future High Streets Fund, and development of Local Industrial Strategies to support the sector.

Delegates will discuss its wide-ranging recommendations - and their significance for towns in all regions of the UK - which include:

  • introduction of ‘enterprise zones’;
  • improved digital and transport connectivity;
  • the role of the creative industries in leading regeneration; and
  • increased partnership working to improve access to education, health and housing.

The Select Committee on Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities report also put forward specific calls for the Government to review the effectiveness of the Coastal Communities Fund and a focus on the ‘Town Deal’ model on coastal communities with Blackpool prioritised.

Delegates will hear from front-line examples addressing these issues in towns across the UK and consider the challenges for joining-up working across the public, private and third sector bodies involved and scaling up initiatives that work.

We expect discussion on addressing health inequalities in towns and the impact on wellbeing and productivity, priorities for dealing with changes in the demands for skills, leading regeneration by improving the cultural offer in towns, providing greater access to affordable public transport, and the role of social enterprise in rebuilding local economies.

Attendees will look at the future for town centres, rethinking their use in light of structural challenges in the retail sector and assessing the effectiveness of Business Improvement Districts.

With the National Planning Policy Framework aiming to ensure the ‘vitality of town centres’, delegates will discuss how the planning system can best be used to develop vibrant communities, looking at long-term planning for a mix of uses and planning residential development appropriately, as well as challenges posed by the forthcoming extension of permitted development rights to retail properties.

Keynote Speaker

Rt Hon the Lord Bassam of Brighton

Chair, House of Lords Regenerating Seaside Towns Select Committee

Keynote Speakers

Senior speaker confirmed from British BIDs

Rachel Fisher

Deputy Director, Towns, Cities and Local Growth Unit

Rt Hon the Lord Bassam of Brighton

Chair, House of Lords Regenerating Seaside Towns Select Committee

Professor Christopher Turner

Chief Executive, British BIDs


Margaret Bolton

Director of Policy, Local Trust

Victoria Hills

Chief Executive, Royal Town Planning Institute

Councillor Laura Price

Chair, West Oxfordshire Community Transport and Member, Oxfordshire County Council

Paul Bristow

Director, Strategic Partnerships, Arts Council England