Always pleased to see another take on high street improvements, I read the Timpson report (December 2018) with enthusiasm, especially as it would have influenced the Chancellors decision to allocate £675m for the Future High Street fund…
It’s good that the high street issue is still clearly high up enough on the agenda for the Government to fund studies and reports – and certainly, there were some relevant people on the Timpson panel.
There were a few takeaways from the report, which I’ll come to, but in the initial reading, I was disappointed that there was nothing new to report; no new findings and it seems that little has moved forwards since the Portas and Grimsey reports! So, alas, no new suggestions.
Much of the recommendation from the report was based around collaborative working and community involvement, with a shared vision and best practice across sectors, for cross-pollinating ideas and projects. The report recommends using experts in place and town planning, plus identifying an inspirational leader to lead the charge… This is clearly what all BIDs strive to do, and which organisations such as ATCM and IPM have been attempting to coordinate. So at least these organisations are on the right track – there is already some excellent practice being shared by those BIDs and town centre teams who have been leading the way.
The report recognises that no two towns are alike; each with its own culture and heritage, which should be retained. To capitalise on this uniqueness and retain the identity, town centres need to take a cross-sector approach and not be driven by retail, which has its own set of challenges and accolades that other sectors don’t face.
Through the work Noggin has carried out with town centres, I’m very aware of how easy it is to think of the high street as being just about retail, especially with so much media emphasis put on retail, but with more and more data available to us, the picture is starting to look different. The Timpson report recommends that more shared and tailored data needs to be made available across sectors and across the board – something we were delighted to read! The panel put an emphasis on getting “the right data to the right people in a way that they can understand”, which I make a priority here at Noggin.
I’m delighted that the power of data – collection, sharing, monitoring and analysis/ evaluation – has been recognised by the Timpson report and is being pushed centrally. The more people realise the extent of data available – and how much weight it carries in business decision-making – the more cross-organisational data that will continue to be made available.
I am pleased that the Timpson report adds to the multiple voices with the same opinion about town centres. If so many experts and investigators are coming to the same conclusions, then, surely their recommendations should be viewed as consensus. The frustration should be that despite all these experts and commissioned pieces recommending the same solutions, nothing seems to happen – or if it does, it moves very slowly.
From Noggin’s perspective, the IPM is making great inroads and is becoming increasingly influential, which we’re pleased about. Noggin is trying to develop our services and extend our reach, and indeed, other companies are trying. But central decisive action is sorely lacking, and the Government is lukewarm, at best, on making changes. We’ll see how Mr Hammonds allocation is used; hopefully there will be some encouraging case studies to come out of £675m!