Town centres must have five-year plans and embrace digital opportunities, according to a new report on the future of the nation’s high streets.

The report, published by the Future High Streets Forum on 31 May, was developed by a government taskforce headed by Costa Coffee’s managing director Jason Cotta.

It has developed a five-point plan it says town centres must adopt – after reviewing the work done at so-called Portas towns. The points are:

  • Establish a local partnership to drive change
  • Develop a Town Strategy and associated Action Plan
  • Local groups deliver the Action Plan
  • Conduct a systematic review of Action Plan and Town Strategy
  • Draw insights, celebrate successes with effective communication.

Explaining the steps, and the work done to establish them, the report stated: “After four study visits to Portas Pilot Towns, the group gathered information in planning; strategies and tactics that have worked well; activities which have not worked, availability of funding streams; and the make-up of the wider Town Team Partners.

“This has led us to recommend a model for good leadership and local visioning that contains appropriate steps to establish strong partnerships, with a focus on local delivery.”

However, the report also includes the caveat that the plan will still require “strong leadership at the local level to be truly successful and sustainable”.

Retail expert Mary Portas was recruited by the government nearly four years ago to look at ailing high streets. Following her appointment, some 27 towns were earmarked for government funding , but the scheme has faced widespread criticism.

Commenting on the publication of the report for the Future High Streets Forum, Portas told The Grocer, a sister title of British Baker: “We have proved what we set out to prove – that high streets are vital, decline is not inevitable and that doing something about it gives a better outcome.”

To read the report in full see: