Westminster Social Policy Forum

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

Morning, Tuesday, 15th October 2019

Central London


This seminar will discuss the future for UK towns - including priorities for policy, investment and the development of ‘Town Deals’.

It follows the recently published Tourism Sector Deal.

Discussion is expected on Tourism Zones - where towns, business and local organisations bid for visitor economy support - as well as measures for developing local skills in hospitality, to support local tourist sectors.

The agenda

Keynote sessions:

  • The Future of seaside towns report and priorities for regeneration - with Rt Hon the Lord Bassam of Brighton, Regenerating Seaside Towns Select Committee.
  • Policy for supporting towns - with Rachel Fisher, Deputy Director, Towns, Cities and Local Growth Unit.
  • The first ‘Town Deal’ - the story from Greater Grimsby so far - with Councillor Philip Jackson, Leader, North East Lincolnshire Council.

Panel sessions:

  • The Stronger Towns Fund - can it deliver? 
  • Addressing the underlying factors affecting towns
    • Population health management - addressing health inequalities in towns;
    • Skills - tackling deficits and supporting re-skilling;
    • The cultural offer in towns - and the support needed;
    • Public transport - affordability and access; and
    • Rebuilding local economies and the role for social enterprise.
  • Regenerating and rethinking town centres
    • An international case study from Roeselare, Belgium;
    • Placemaking: the importance of planning in developing vibrant communities;
    • ‘Coastal town regeneration: pin-point investments and the importance of heritage, identity and culture’;
    • Town centre transformation - delivering a joined-up ‘masterplan’; and
    • The Business Improvement District (BID) model and developing a town brand.

The Stronger Towns Fund, the future for ‘Town Deals’ and priorities for investment

With the recent public commitment from the Prime Ministerial to funding for towns, delegates will discuss priority areas for investment, best uses for additional funds and the development of the ‘Town Deal’ model.

It also takes place 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.

Strategies for town regeneration - assessing Select Committee recommendations for seaside towns and what can be learnt for communities across the UK

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

This sets out a commitment to the future of seaside towns through the Coastal Communities Fund, the Coastal Revival Fund, and the recently published Tourism Sector Deal.

We also expect discussion on work being done through the Future High Streets Fund and the new High Streets Task Force designed to offer local authorities guidance on revitalising high streets and town centres - as well as the development of Local Industrial Strategies to support the sector.

Delegates will assess 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.

Case studies on addressing the underlying factors affecting towns as places to live and work

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.

Effective town centre regeneration

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, as well as considering international case studies on town regeneration.

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


Martin Vickers MP

Member of Parliament, House of Commons


Margaret Bolton

Director of Policy, Local Trust

Jessie Hamshar

Service Director, Strategy and Engagement, Cornwall Council

Gareth Hart

Chair, Plymouth Social Enterprise Network (recorded presentation)

Victoria Hills

Chief Executive, Royal Town Planning Institute

Dr Kris Declercq

Mayor, Roeselare, Belgium

Councillor Laura Price

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

Mark Robinson

Property Director and Co-Founder, Ellandi and President, Revo

Ilias Drivylas

Associate Director, Economic Development, AECOM

Paul Bristow

Director, Strategic Partnerships, Arts Council England