The High Streets Task Force is a consortium of organisations helping revitalise England’s high streets and town centres by providing training, guidance and data to the people who make them. The LI is one of four professional bodies supporting the programme.
When four leading figures in landscape convened in May to assess dozens of applications to the High Streets Task Force (HSTF) expert, facilitator and mentor register, the scope of the programme had already changed dramatically.
In March, in light of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, HSTF postponed its remaining pilot visits indefinitely and shifted its focus to developing its online learning and webinar programmes. Its range of online services launched last month.
‘The Coronavirus crisis is forcing us to think and act differently,’ said Manchester Metropolitan University’s Simon Quin, Executive Director of the Task Force. ‘… Launching the Framework and Task Force resources immediately made sense. Their help is incredibly valuable in plotting a course for the crisis recovery and longer-term transformation of our high streets.’
What next for the expert register?
Just over a year after the launch of the project, the HSTF team is, wherever possible, adapting its products for online delivery. The experts selected by the LI and other Task Force partners will be instrumental in delivering them when work begins in earnest later this year.
COVID-19 may have hindered the delivery of the project as initially envisioned. And it may in itself pose a whole new class of significant risk to high streets. But it does not mean the other, more entrenched threats to the future of high streets have vanished.
‘The most skilled, creative minds are needed to reignite the potential of our streets.’
‘The HSTF project is perhaps even more significant now than at its inception,’ said Carole-Anne Davies, LI HSTF assessment panel member and founding chief executive of Prif Weithredwr, the Design Commission for Wales. ‘The future of the high street, of the vibrancy of retail and social interaction we have all been so familiar with, is at critical risk.
‘Consumer patterns have changed. Online purchasing has been the great disrupter of space occupancy. Challenging environmental conditions such as flooding and fresh public health imperatives now mean that the most skilled, creative minds are needed to reignite the potential of our streets.’
Who will undertake the work?
The LI’s selection panel approved and submitted over 40 applications to the central HSTF team. The assessment was rigorous and robust. Successful candidates would lead the delivery of an £8.6 million contract to breathe new life into England’s struggling town centres, and it was crucial that each one was an eminent figure in their field.
‘The selection process was a reminder of just how vast the skill base is, and how willing and passionate the talented professionals within it are.’ Carole-Ann continued. ‘These practitioners will help rethink and reinvent the places which can and should still play an important role in the cohesion of our communities.’
The HSTF central team are now working closely with those put forward to appear on the expert register to finalise availability and contractual processes, with the aim of providing training in early autumn for delivery of services thereafter. The COVID-19 restrictions mean that all timings are subject to change, but the team look forward to being able to continue the process of supporting high street improvements over the next few years.
About the panel
The LI is extraordinarily grateful to the four landscape leaders – among them one of our newest Fellows and our new President – who gave up their time to support this important project.
Convening on 5 May 2020, the panel deliberated for a total of three sessions across two days, scrutinising each individual application to ensure only the very best candidates were put forward. The panel was delighted with the calibre of the candidates, their breadth of expertise, and their wide range of geographical knowledge and perspectives.
As founding chief executive of the Design Commission for Wales, Carole leads an expert, multi-disciplinary team whose remit spans the whole of the built environment in Wales. Her team works with local planning authorities, investors, developers and commissioning clients, delivering services including design review, training client support, events, publications, and networking.
Professor Brian Evans FLI
Brian is Professor of Urbanism and Landscape at Glasgow’s Mackintosh School of Architecture, and director of the Glasgow Urban Laboratory. As Glasgow’s City Urbanist, he acts as strategic adviser on ‘place, design and the city’ with a local, national and international perspective. Brian is an advisor to the UN Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva on the future of cities and the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. He has led projects in 20 countries and won over 50 national and international awards for professional and design excellence. He recently became a Fellow of the Landscape Institute (FLI).
Jane Findlay PLI
Jane Findlay co-founded her landscape practice, Fira, with Sue Radley in 1997. She is an experienced masterplanner and public realm designer. A passionate advocate of quality landscape design in the public realm, and its physical and psychological benefits, Jane is a member of the Healthy Buildings Focus Group and Architects for Health. She has led the Fira team on large and complex commercial and public sector projects, creating sustainable civic spaces that promote enjoyment and wellbeing.
Paul Tiplady MRTPI, FLI
Paul Tiplady is a Chartered Landscape Architect and Chartered Town Planner. A respected rural expert, Paul has over 30 years’ specialist experience in the environment and conservation, and a record in developing and applying town and country planning policies, landscape management, and business strategies. Since 2007, Paul has run Craggatak Consulting in Cumbria.
The HSTF team is working closely with expert candidates to determine availability and contractual specifics. The aim is to train experts in the early autumn, for delivery of services thereafter. While COVID-19 means that all timings are subject to change, the team looks forward to being able to continue the process of supporting high street improvements over the next few years.