local government

The Next Steps for Revitalising High Streets in the UK 

local government

08:45 - 16:00

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The Hatton- etc Venues, Central London

This Forum offers attendees the opportunity to examine the latest developments in drastically overturning negative trends across UK high streets. Attendees will hear how business rate cuts and the Future High Streets Fund, both announced in the Autumn Budget 2018, can kick-start the drive towards securing a positive future for high streets in the face of rising online retail markets. Additionally, this event will provide scope to hear from innovative best practice case studies driving footfall via property builds, events, community engagement and digital transformation.


This Forum is specifically designed for Local Government. Typical job titles will include:

  • Business Improvement District (BID) Managers
  • Business Development Managers
  • Town Centre Officers
  • Regeneration Managers
  • Economic Development Managers
  • Councillors
  • Local Economy Managers
  • Directors of Housing and Development
  • Principal Planning Officers
  • City Development Managers
  • Enterprise Managers
  • City Centre Managers
  • Community Officers
  • Planning and Commissioning Managers
  • Digital Skills Leads
  • Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Chairs

The forum is also open to the wider Public Sector as well as the Private, Academic and Voluntary Sectors.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Councillor Graham Galpin, Member, High Streets Experts Advisory Panel 
  • Brigid Simmonds OBE, Member, Future High Streets Forum and, Chief Executive, British Beer and Pubs Association 
  • Alex Schlagman, Co-Founder, Save the High Street.org 
  • Chris Davies MP, Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire 
Media Partners
View the agenda and additional speakers


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Graham Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Working in Partnership with Local Partners to Deliver Meaningful High Street Reform

  • Diagnosing current issues facing high streets via the Expert Panel’s December 2018 High Street Report, which provides recommendations to local authorities and businesses on measures to reinvigorate high streets
  • Implementing the £675 million Future High Street Fund to those councils and business improvement districts (BIDs) with the most promising high street potential
  • Highlighting what local councils and consumers need from their high street through the High Street Task Force, such as additional residences, events, childcare services and leisure activities
  • Showing that extra funding alone isn’t enough given the failure of the 2012 Portas Pilots which provided £1.2 million of funding to 12 towns to raise high street trade, yet these same towns lost 17% of their shops over 5 years
  • Using the Task Force to share data across the country, such as satisfaction scores and economic key performance indicators (including footfall figures) so that towns can learn what works

Councillor Graham Galpin, Member, High Streets Experts Advisory Panel (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Developing Innovative Solutions to Advance Diverse High Streets

  • Outlining the role of the Future High Streets Forum, which comprises of retail leaders and high street regeneration experts sharing best practice and finding innovative solutions to high street challenges
  • Understanding that raising high street footfall requires not only retail and property boosts, but a co-ordinated approach which includes leisure activities, restaurants, pubs and hospitality services
  • Building five separate work streams which drive direction across different areas, including restructuring high streets, digitalisation, building local partnerships, driving research and communicating best practice
  • Constructing partnerships between the public and private sector, through business improvement districts (BIDs), which help to manage and coordinate high street policy and high street action
  • Running the Great British High Street Awards at the Forum, which recognises the work of business improvement districts, local authorities and communities in creating thriving high streets
  • Proposing changes to Use Class Orders and Government funding in 2019

Brigid Simmonds OBE, Member, Future High Streets Forum and, Chief Executive, British Beer and Pubs Association (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Implementing an Effective Community-Led Approach to High Street Regeneration

  • Promoting local, non-national stores across the high street to reduce store vacancies, drive public engagement, raise footfall and protect the environment for a clean, thriving and full high street
  • Building a Totally Locally campaign, which brings together over 100 businesses to promote local services through initiatives such as the offering of lower market rates than is offered to national chains
  • Driving footfall through community engagement in a Zero Waste Crickhowell, such as plastic free campaigns, community cleaning and the creation of Wales’ first zero waste stores
  • Inspiring 267 residents to prevent a national supermarket taking over a former high street pub through a communications strategy which gained 1,500 letters of objection, leading instead to the creation of three stores and three residential properties
  • Understanding that communities are likely to be more engaged in high streets when stores are local, with 99% of Crickhowell town centre stores are locally run

Awarded UK High Street of the Year at The Great British High Street Awards

Dean Christy, Managing Director, Corn Exchange Crickhowell and Chris Davies MP, Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Driving University Research to Support Local Authorities and Marketplaces to Regenerate High Streets

  • Running a four year-project, GO TRADE, which is helping to reinvigorate high streets by extending business diversity and the range of services offered across town centres
  • Producing leading university research for local authorities, businesses and marketplaces on the role of markets in revitalising town centres 
  • Putting place-branding at the heart of leading advice to town centre managers, BIDs and those seeking to boost 
  • Leading the academic drive to create research and strategy for high streets to withstand the fast-evolving 21st Century visitor economy 

Dr Andres Coca-Stefaniak, Associate Professor – Department of Business, University of Greenwich (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Developing and Delivering Successful Events and Campaigns to Drive Footfall to the High Street

  • Running numerous events and campaigns through Altrincham’s business improvement district (BID) to increase footfall, dwell time and community engagement across the high street
  • Launching the Explore Altrincham walking tours and annual Summer Festival, attracting up to 40,000 additional people in one day to the high street
  • Launching #Shoptober, which used social media and news outlet Altrincham Today to promote Altrincham’s 140 independent retailers, achieving over 10,000 views on every post
  • Launching the BID’s cost-reduction campaign, which uses procurement specialist’s Meercat Associates to identify retail business savings, identifying over £85,000 of savings for Altrincham stores
  • Introducing an Active in Altrincham campaign, which partners with eight local fitness providers in the town centre to offer free trial offers to drive leisure activities on high streets
  • Initiating the LoyALTY app, which has given 10,000 people working in Altrincham town centre exclusive discount offers and loyalty schemes to shops, bars and leisure centres on the high street

Awarded English High Street of the Year at The Great British High Street Awards

Elizabeth Faulkner, BID Manager, Altrincham Unlimited Business Improvement District (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Sessions


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: The Role of Technology in Driving an Effective High Street Growth Model

  • Building an industry movement to support local high street retailers via a Retail Advisory Board, which accelerates the transition towards digital, connected and sustainable high streets
  • Launching the High Street Manifesto, which promotes 8 growth drivers of high streets for councils, BIDs and retailers to follow, including modernisation, education, community empowerment and data building
  • Building a core research group of industry experts and businesses to pilot digital capabilities, such as the digital helper JO which is designed to measure, monitor and drive sales improvement strategies
  • Reversing the logic that technology will end high streets and instead understanding that it can augment human elements of retail service, increase outreach to customers and offer increasing store diversity

Alex Schlagman, Co-Founder, Save the High Street.org (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Leading the Way in Digitising UK High Streets

  • Leading high street digitisation by bringing together Gloucester businesses to drive innovative solutions for raising footfall via £106.63 million of central government funding as part of the Growth Deal
  • Providing £400,000 of funding to create the first UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre, which is testing disruptive digital technologies to reignite high street retail via digital upskilling, robotics and automation
  • Gaining £1 million of funding from Innovate UK for the GL Card, the first app-based card which links online browsing to the high street to connect users with retailers by directing them to offers
  • Setting up the What Do You Think? campaign alongside councils to teach over 200 high street retailers about online promotion of their stores, such as through social media training
  • Working with Gloucester City Council and Google’s Niantic Labs to become the first town centre to implement integrated CCTV, Wifi and 4G to raise the efficiency of town centre security
  • Installing 50 footfall capturing devices to analyse the impact of digital activity, with footfall rising by up to 26%

Awarded Best Digital High Street Scheme 2018 at The Association of Town and City Management (ACTM) Awards

Jason Smith, Director, UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre and Nigel Jobson, Chair, GFirst LEP Retail Sector Group (CONFIRMED)


Interactive Questions and Answers Session

Delegates will be able to submit live questions and discussion points to speakers on the day via the Sli.do mobile application  


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Building a Council-University Partnership to Drive Research-backed Digital High Street Solutions

  • Partnering with Loughborough University’s ‘Digital High Street Team’ to gather evidence on digital uptake across Warwickshire towns and inform investment decisions by the council and businesses
  • Funding and delivering digital skills training to over 70 high street businesses in order to support additional digital routes to revenue generation and footfall building
  • Installing free public-access Wi-Fi across six town centres to enable consumers and businesses to stay connected whilst shopping
  • Introducing five GeoSense footfall counters, which track Wi-Fi enabled devices to monitor consumer movements, increasing data analytic capabilities such as differentiating between new and repeat visitors, as well as length of dwell time
  • Placing academic research within the council’s digital strategy to ensure that the strategy is sustainable, with 60% of consumer facing high street businesses now possessing a strong digital presence

Rachel Baconnet, Team Leader – Town Centres, Warwickshire Country Council and Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick, Senior Lecturer in Retail Marketing, Loughborough University (CONFIRMED)


Closing Keynote: Future-proofing High Streets Through the Delivery of New Homes and Property Growth

  • Asking “who owns the high street?” and what the implications of this are
  • Overcoming the challenges of adaptation and learning from BPF’s work on fragmented ownership and Town Centre Investment Zones
  • Supporting the Government’s current direction of travel on adaptation – the High Street Fund – and how it can help facilitate adaptation
  • Bringing alternative uses onto our High Streets and how that must be done in a sophisticated and planned way with considered planning reforms 

Ian Fletcher, Director of Policy, British Property Federation (BPF) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*Programme subject to change


UK high streets are experiencing a drastic decline in consumer engagement and footfall. Footfall fell by 3.2% in November 2018 compared to the same month in 2017 for the twelfth consecutive month, the biggest year on year decrease since the recession in 2008. To compound this issue, shop vacancies are rising, with 9,500 shops closing in 2018 and 10,200 set to close in 2019. Up to 200,000 high street jobs are also predicted to be cut by 2020, on top of the 150,000 that have been cut since 2016. This is put down, largely, to the changing nature of retail towards online platforms. In the past ten years, internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales have risen from 4% to 18%.

The Government’s 2018 Autumn Budget Plan for the High Street aims to tackle these struggling trends, with Chancellor Phillip Hammond vowing to cut business rates by a third for 90% of retail properties from April 2019. The Government also committed to take strategic action to ensure high streets keep up with evolving consumer patterns by creating a Future High Streets Fund valued at £675 million. This fund will be invested in driving digital solutions, supporting new housing development and sustaining local projects. Additionally, the High Street Expert Advisory Panel released The High Street Report in December 2018, which sets out the role of the High Streets Task Force in acting as a voice for high street revitalisation. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) also launched the Open Doors Project in November 2018, which strategies the conversion of empty retail units into homes and community hubs. Strategies and funding are finally being realigned to reverse the declining trends in high streets.

However, without local authorities actively engaging with local businesses and landlords, there is a danger these concerning trends will continue. Local authorities must embrace a multidimensional stance on high street renewal, which means focusing on driving footfall through residential housing, embracing digital advancements and driving forward community campaigns. If this can be done, there is a real chance to once again create thriving high streets across the UK.

Councillor Graham Galpin

Graham is Ashford Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Property. His brief included town centres and business vitality for 6 years. This has capitalised upon his career in economic development and regeneration consulting.

During this period Ashford has seen void rates drop from almost 20% to about 8%. Footfall has risen by 6% in 2018. In addition, Graham has been a key mover in the strategic purchases to assist the vitality of Ashford town.

Jake Berry MP, UK Minister for High Streets, invited Graham to join his expert panel to examine the future of town centres which proposed the Future High Street Fund and the Task Force.

Alex Schlagman

Alex Schlagman is a Founding Partner of SaveTheHighStreet.org. SaveTheHighStreet.org is an industry-wide movement to transform and strengthen the high street. 

The movement launched in August 2016 with the release of a manifesto that defined a better connected, digitally enabled, more successful future high street and how we achieve it together. 

SaveTheHighStreet.org is supported by a national High Street Advisory Board (including 200+ independent businesses and 50+ other experts), dozens of strategic partners across public and private sector and a fast-growing network of Local Champions across the UK. 

In 2018, they engaged 25,000+ high street businesses, launched a national task-force to empower local community leaders, delivered grass-roots research projects and built Jo (JoinJo.com) – a digital assistant that transforms the economics of local business support. 

Alex is a serial entrepreneur on a mission to connect online and offline commerce. Prior to SaveTheHighStreet.org, Alex founded a click&collect shopping marketplace, a digital agency for small businesses and a local retail platform for students. 

Ian Fletcher

Ian Fletcher is Director of Policy (Real Estate) at the British Property Federation (BPF) – the trade association for the property investment sector. Ian speaks for the sector and his team covers a wide range of housing, commercial property, planning and sustainability issues. He was a member of the Government’s Montague Review Group, which examined how to encourage greater institutional investment in rented housing, and is a long term champion of the nascent Build-to-Rent sector. He has also recently helped Government review the case for making client money protection compulsory for letting agents.

Away from the BPF, Ian has recently stepped down from chairing the committee of management which regulates the quality of private student accommodation in the UK.

Ian was formerly Head of Policy and Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce. He has also worked in banking and teaching, and holds professional qualifications in finance and market research, and is an honorary Fellow of the Institute of Residential Property Management. He is married, with one young son.

Rachel Baconnet

Rachel leads the team that supports economic growth in Warwickshire’s town centres and delivers strategic tourism for Warwickshire.  The team’s work includes supporting town centre partnerships, businesses and stakeholders as well as providing support to existing and emerging Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), coordinating industry research and achieving economies of scale by delivering initiatives to support multiple towns across the county.

Through her leadership, the team has developed a Digital High Street programme, which includes using research to tailor independent retailer training and investment in infrastructure.

Rachel’s focus has been on working in partnership and improving communication between the County Council and various town centre stakeholders. She established and chairs the Warwickshire Towns Network, which includes District and Borough Councils, BIDs and place-makers from across the County. Rachel is also Chair of the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) for the Midlands Region and sits on the ATCM National Board.

Elizabeth Faulkner

Elizabeth Faulkner is the BID Manager for Altrincham, England’s winner of the Great British High Street Award.  In her previous role, Elizabeth was Assistant CEO of Manchester Central, Manchester’s International Convention Centre and prior to that Elizabeth gained extensive place marketing and project management experience as Business Development Director at Visit Manchester.

Andres Coco-Stefaniak

Andres Coca-Stefaniak is Associate Professor in Tourism and Events at the University of Greenwich, co-Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Tourism Cities and formerly Programme Manager for Research and International Partnerships at the Association of Town and City Management.

His research interests include town centre management, the role of markets in regeneration, place branding and marketing, urban tourism and smart tourism destinations.

Over the last 17 years, Andres has advised and worked with local authorities in the UK and overseas, mainly through major EU-funded projects. He is also the author of “Successful town centres: developing effective strategies”.

Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick

Fiona Ellis-Chadwick is an academic expert on the impact of digital media on the high street, an area she has been studying for over 20 years. She is also a successful author of leading management books on digital marketing and retailing. At Loughborough University she is an active member of the Town Centres Research Interest Group and has had a successful commercial career in retail management.   Currently, she is leading research projects aiming to advance research knowledge of the impact of digital skills on successful digital business models. Fiona’s research has been widely published in national and international journals.

Nigel Jobson

Niel Jobson is Commercial Director of Maybe*, a platform that uses AI to enable any business to turn social media conversations into insights that inform actions and deliver results.

The #WDYT (#What do you Think) campaign is helping towns accelerate the evolution of their High Streets across the UK by listening to the voice of consumers.

Nigel was previously Property Director at Superdry Plc and Director of JLL, is the Chair of GFirst LEP – Retail Sector Group, sits on the REVO Strategic Board and has 30 years of property and retail experience across the UK, EU and US.

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