What is TCM
Almost 90 per cent of the UK population live and work in towns and cities and nearly everyone depends on them for access to shopping, entertainment, leisure, culture, public services and transportation. Town and city centres also act as a focal point for government and public administration, hubs of regional infrastructure and natural locations for trade and commerce - it is therefore difficult to overstate their importance. In a very real sense, they are everyone's neighbourhood and their management is central to the prosperity and well-being of whole communities.
The need for effective management was graphically demonstrated during the 1980s and early 90s by the decline experienced by many of our towns and cities when faced with out of town development and the lack of concerted response. The Government's commitment to a "town centres first" planning policy is supported by its recommendation that the private sector, property owners, infrastructure agencies, the community and the local authority should develop centre management initiatives (PPS6 and Looking After Town Centres - CLG/DCMS 2009).
What is Centre Management?
Centre Management is a co-ordinated pro-active initiative designed to ensure that our town and city centres are desirable and attractive places. In nearly all instances the initiative is a partnership between the public and private sectors and brings together a wide-range of key interests.
Today there are some 600 towns and cities in the UK that have some form of management initiative. As locally developed initiatives working across centres of different scale, they are naturally varied in terms of their remit and activities. What they have in common is their increasing effectiveness in promoting the vitality and viability of a centre and maintaining its key role as the heart of its community.
Who is involved?
In the early years of town centre management, initiatives were mainly established as partnerships between a local authority and a few key retailers, with Boots, Marks & Spencer and Sainsburys having the most widespread involvement. Though these companies and the local authorities are still important supporters of town centre management, most partnerships have developed into wider structures.
Showcasing Town Centre Management
The development of partnerships, and in some cases their formalisation into companies limited by guarantee, reflects the increasingly diverse range of activities that town and city centre management has become involved in and their record of success. Today the most effective partnerships will involve senior representatives of all key stakeholders that have an interest in the town or city centre and the majority of the partners will contribute to the funding.
What does Town and City Centre Management do?
When first established, many town and city centre management initiatives focused on resolving an environmental, security or marketing problem, but most then evolve to have a far wider remit.
With their senior representation from key interests, town and city centre management initiatives are able to develop, or support the development of, a widely-adopted vision and strategy for the centre. Successful strategies are broad-ranging in approach, typically covering the development of what the centre has to offer to attract people and investment, at transport and access, at environmental quality and security, and at the mechanisms and actions needed to achieve the vision.
What makes the concept of town and city management so effective is that it also plays a key role in delivering the strategic objectives. Detailed Action Plans identify how the strategy is to be delivered and the partnership acts as the driving force in ensuring that delivery takes place. The combination of vision, strategy and action plan, the wide-ranging partnerships and the effective support and involvement of key interests through working and project groups means that town and city centre management can:
- create environments that are clean and safe by investing in maintenance and security
- improve transport, parking, orientation and accessibility
- add vitality through professional marketing and events programmes
- stimulate growth by inward investment and development and through work with existing businesses
- develop branding that stresses distinctiveness and changes perceptions
- celebrate local heritage through tourism and destination management
- expand opportunities through developing training and employment programmes
- increase choice and diversity by promoting and integrating new amenities, residential development and the night-time economy
- enhance quality through public art and major infrastructure improvements to the public realm
- ensure that the town or city centre is welcoming to all and an experience worth having
How is it funded?
The Partners involved in it largely fund Town Centre Management. Core funding typically comes from the members of the Board or Steering Group, or from a wider membership scheme, with the local authority and the private sector each contributing. Funds are normally agreed for a three-year period and then renewed. Some initiatives have been able to secure funds under Government or European programmes to take forward specific projects and others have secured funds from the Regional Development Agency or national equivalent.
To deliver on the Action Plans, town and city centre management initiatives attract or target specific funds for each project. Such funds can be sourced through the local authority, be a public/private mix, or be entirely from the business community. In some instances initiatives are successful in securing lottery funds or other grants and sponsorship. An increasing number of initiatives now receive income through entrepreneurial activity. Whether through conferences and events, publications, licensing activities in their centres, advertising initiatives, or through running markets or street trading, funds are being raised for re-investment in the centre.
The ATCM has worked with Government for some years to bring about the introduction of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) into the UK and has been responsible for the National BIDs Pilot Project that supported the introduction of legislation to permit BIDs to operate in England in 2003/2004 and subsequently in Wales and Scotland. This funding mechanism allows for a local levy to be raised from businesses in a specific area in order to fund improvements and activities agreed by the businesses themselves and by Autumn 2009 there were over 100 BIDs in operation in the UK.
Though BIDs can operate in any commercial area, town and city centre management initiatives have been at the forefront in developing BID proposals. The key difference from existing funding approaches is that once a majority of businesses within an area vote in favour of a BID, all businesses in the area are committed to contribute throughout the life of the BID, a maximum of five years. BIDs will enable many town and city centre management initiatives to deliver on their Action Plans more quickly and with more certainty.
What does it deliver?
Centre management initiatives are bringing about real change in our towns and cities. At one level we are seeing an improvement in environmental quality with planting, greening, cleansing and community safety schemes, and this is making these centres more attractive places to visit or in which to trade. The more strategic initiatives are playing a key role in attracting substantial investment into the centre; in helping to resolve transport and access deficiencies; in making centres places people want to live; and in creating vibrant trading and business environments.
Town Centre Management continues to evolve and respond to the new challenges facing town and city centres. We want to ensure that all involved have the skills and know-how they require to enable all centres to achieve their potential.
If your centre does not yet have a town or city centre management in place, then it is potentially giving a competitive advantage to its neighbours. If you want to redress this, then the ATCM will be able to help and can be contacted as detailed below.
If you already have an initiative in place and are looking to review its activities or develop into new areas, then make use of your ATCM membership to check out the fast-growing on-line ATCM Knowledge Base on our website or join us at our annual Summer School.
The Association of Town Centre Management is the leading organisation in Europe concerned with managing and improving town and city centres. As a not-for-profit membership organisation we represent the interests of town and city centre management partnerships across Britain and Ireland. Our members include a wide-range of Government, regional agencies, local authorities and leading business interests. Membership provides access to regular newsletters, publications, on-line information, events, conferences and seminars, as well as networking opportunities with others involved in this fast-evolving area. If you would like to know more, check out our website, call us on 020 7222 0120, or email email@example.com to find out how ATCM can help you.