Reflecting the Ashford model
The Government’s investigation into the decline of the high street resulted in the formation of a Town Centres Expert Panel. The panel spent six months examining the many challenges facing the high street to present a plan of action which has now been published.
Headed up by Sir John Timpson, chairman of the family run shoe care and engraving retailer, Timpson, the report sets out recommendations that empower local authorities and the local community to take responsibility for the high street and reimagine how a 21st century high street should look and feel. The report calls for a community-focused approach to tackling the challenges facing high streets and town centres.
Ashford Borough Council, recently highlighted in the national media as an authority that has been getting it right in reinvigorating its town centre, had Graham Galpin, a senior councillor with the portfolio for the town centre, invited to join the Government Expert Panel.
“A lot of the recommendations in the report reflect what is already happening in Ashford. We are delighted to be leading from the front. Place changing is recognised as important as place making, and that there is going to be a fund to pay for significant infrastructure, as well as recognition that there needs to be a town centre champion. It’s a vital part of the report that you need strong leadership to take the plan forward,” Graham said.
“The inclusion of the community and businesses in the process of bringing the town centre forward is something we have always adhered to in Ashford and we will continue to do so. There is a need for this to be addressed at local government level because the idea that you can make these changes from a national Government level is optimistic.”
The report along with the £675 million Future High Streets Fund and Town Centre Taskforce being made available plus rate cuts for small business owners will give people the tools to make a maximum impact on the high street. The report points to civic pride needing to be promoted by the local authority and building the community town centres they can be proud of.
Graham added: “Town centres will need to be reinvented for life in the 21st century and if we don’t repurpose and change the offer then we won’t have a high street to worry about. I have always said I want Ashford town centre to be a fun place to visit. An important part of what we offer is that fun element, otherwise we just end up with a town that is very lacklustre, and we have all seen a number of these up and down the country. Every town needs to keep working hard to improve.”
The report is published and available to download: The High Street Report
For more information about Ashford town centre visit www.loveashford.com