Steve Rotheram Welcomes Liverpool City Region Town Centres Commission Report
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, has welcomed the report of the city region’s Town Centres Commission, which he established in January 2020.
The Commission, the first of its kind in the country, was set up to investigate how to ensure a prosperous and sustainable long-term future for the city region’s town centres.
The Commission’s report has made a raft of recommendations for policy makers within the city region and beyond, as well as establishing a vision for the role of town centres at the heart of their communities.
Welcoming the report, Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:
“Town centres and high streets are at the heart of our communities, providing a hub for people to meet, shop and socialise but sadly too many have seen better days. In the aftermath of the last General Election, there was lots of attention lavished on towns, but we’ve not seen enough action from government to follow it up.
“When I launched this commission, I said that our economy, both regionally and nationally, would not thrive unless success was shared between our cities and our towns.
“Locally we’ve been investing in both the present and future of town centres. We’ve put tens of millions of pounds into town centres across the region from New Ferry and Bootle, to Kirkby and Southport. I launched a multi-million-pound town centre fund to help empower local councils to build the capacity to develop ambitious plans to invest in the regeneration of their high streets.
“I’m really grateful to everyone who has worked on the Commission to put together this report. We’ll be working to see how we can put its principles and recommendations into practice.
“Despite the challenges of this pandemic, I want to safeguard the future of our town centres to ensure that they remain at the heart of our communities for generations to come.”
Councillor Janette Williamson, Liverpool City Region Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy & Third Sector, said:
“This is an important and timely report as, across the country, we think about how to secure a prosperous future for our town centres.
“There is a lot in this report to think about, both as a Combined Authority and as individual councils, as we look to future proof our town centres for the post-pandemic world.
“The pandemic has reminded us just how much we need to get together with friends and family and, working together with our partners, we can ensure that our town centres have a bright future as community hubs, where people can meet, socialise, access services, and shop.”
The independent Commission was chaired by Sarah Longlands, Director of IPPR North. IPPR North was also appointed by the Combined Authority to act as a secretariat for the Commission.
The Commission’s vision for prosperous town centres would deliver places that:
Anchor social, cultural, and economic value – with strategic investment to make them attractive, inviting and accessible for a diverse community. That means clean, safe streets and spaces, a range of shops and services that meet local needs, and opportunities to take part in events and activities that reflect the character and history of the area and its people
Belong to communities, providing a local focus in the city region. Communities need a say in how decisions about their town centre are made, and a stake in the ownership of assets and land. This means local organisations working in partnership to bring communities together through different activities. It also means designing town centres in a way that is inclusive and accessible to everyone
And connect people and places within and beyond our city region. Town centres should be great places to live and to visit, with good-quality housing that helps to build communities and sustainable transport networks that make it easy to get around – locally and across the city region.
To achieve towns that anchor, belong and connect, the commission have set out recommendations including:
- Revenue investment that maximises the value of capital projects, to sustain them over time and let them develop and adapt to changing circumstances
- Encouragement and opportunities for creative and cultural businesses, social enterprise and diverse entrepreneurship, including small scale grants and loans
- Innovation in funding, ownership, design and the use of space such as encouraging pop-up spaces for community activity, local businesses or public service delivery; and ensuring vacant land is well managed and activated to contribute positively to town centres until its future use is decided
- Policymaking that puts people first in town centres – for example making health and wellbeing a key aim of policy, helping people to build skills for jobs in their local area, and giving local people more control over their town centre’s future through co-operative planning.
The work of the Town Centres Commission complements the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s £6 million Town Centres Fund, which is enabling local authorities to come up with exciting ways to regenerate town centres across the city region.
The focus on town centres as community hubs is also aligned with the Combined Authority’s extensive engagement work to ensure that local communities are influencing its Spatial Development Strategy, which will shape how the city region develops for decades to come, an approach which was also used to develop the city region’s Local Industrial Strategy.
The Liverpool City Region’s Land Commission – England’s first – established by the Metro Mayor to review the use of public land for community wealth building, is also expected to publish its findings in the Spring.