A Year to Forget

30 Dec 2020

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ATCM Annual Review for 2020

As 2019 drew to a close, a joint meeting of the Board of Directors and Advisory Council agreed three core themes for ATCM to focus on for  it's members: 

  • The Industrial Revolution 
  • The Social Revolution 
  • The Climate Emergency 

Before the year had even begun, rumours of a mystery illness circulating in the City of Wuhan in China would prove to be the greatest crisis for high streets in a generation, over-shadowing all other issues, devastating specific sectors and forcing change globally. 

Green High Street 2050: The Place Management Conference
On the 3rd March 2020, ATCM hosted its only conference of the year, Green High Street 2050, which explored the implications for town centres as both the UK and EU set 2050 as a target for carbon neutrality. 

The event brought together representatives from the Imperial College London, Greenpeace, Next, Revo, Glasgow City Council, Aberdeen Inspired Shrewsbury BID, the Royal Town Planning Institute and others.   


The Co-Benefits of Climate Action by Towns and Cities by Dr Neil Jennings at Green High Street 2050





By the end of March, the die had been cast and lockdowns were in place across most of Europe including the UK and Ireland. ATCM responded within days with a new, short-term strategy to support the early weeks of the crisis.

This included: 
1. Requesting that all governments put in place immediate, short term, support for high street businesses to deal with liquidity problems, to help them through a challenging few months. 
2. Develop high level peer-to-peer networking to share experiences and best practice internationally. Also to ensure high quality information is getting to the industry in a timely manner. 
3. To gather data on the impact of COVID-19 on high streets and town centres across the UK and Ireland as the crisis progresses. 
4. To share that data with policy-makers to support governments in understanding the challenges for high street and town centres for the purpose of working with them to develop a programme of long-term regeneration once the virus has been overcome. 
5. To celebrate best practice where our members have been critical to business survival to highlight the contribution of the town and city management industry. 




ATCM’s support for the urban place management industry through 2020 has had to evolve quickly in line with crisis. What we hoped would be a short-term crisis has become a prolonged challenge with multiple dimensions across public health, economy and society.

Here are some of the things we have achieved: 

Knowledge Exchange 

  • Hosted a series of in-depth conversations with the Advisory Council called 'Blueprint for Resilience' to outline the challenges that town and city centres will face over the long-term due to the pandemic.
  • Delivered real-time communications on government restrictions, news and business support to members through a new COVID-19 tile on Basecamp. 
  • Delivered High Street Conversations, weekly meetings of place managers discussing a wide range of topics from Brexit to the challenges of COVID-19 for university towns.
  • Jointly hosted transatlantic webinars with the International Downtown Association for a global conversation on COVID-19 with representatives from cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix (Arizona).
  • Supported Forward Together, the Annual Conference for the International Downtown Association which went virtual for 2020 with ATCM coordinating sessions ‘Whose Road is it Anyway?’ ‘End of the Future?’ ‘Inner City Pressure’ and ‘Saving the Night’.
  • Set up a new ATCM YouTube Channel for High Street Conversations On Demand and for promoting other content. 

Keeping Traders Trading: High Street Conversations On Demand - 19th November 2020


'Reopening: The Art of the Dance' Transatlantic Webinar, in partnership with the International Downtown Association, took place on the 13th July 2020, featuring Phoenix, Los Angeles, Leicester and Leeds.




  • Worked with closely with UK Government departments on a wide range of Coronavirus and Brexit Transition related issues including the Cabinet Office, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. 
  • Engaged with Ministers Paul Scully MP (Small Business), Kelly Tolhurst MP (Local Growth and High Streets), Mayor Sadiq Khan (London) and Andy Street (West Midlands). 


  • Reconvened the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Town Centres led by Stephen Hammond MP to coordinate parliamentary support for UK town centres. 
  • Worked with The BID Foundation and British BIDs to lobby for financial support for the BIDs industry and took part in a UK-wide meeting of civil servants in regeneration, led by the Scotland’s Town Partnership, to discuss further support. 
  • Employed Laura Blake as Public Affairs Assistant to support additional workload on policy. 
  • Supported the campaigns of members such as #Raisethebar and #BounceBackBetter by Croydon BID aimed at increasing levels of financial support for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors and the Fair Reach campaign by Aberdeen Inspired, aimed at increasing the visibility of small businesses on Facebook during the pandemic. 
  • Participated in, or led, a number of key groups including Co-Chairing the High Streets Task Force alongside The BID Foundation, and supporting the London Transition Board and the London COVID Business Forum. 
  • Jointly hosting a virtual consultation with Revo on the ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper in England featuring MHCLG and the Royal Town Planning Institute. 
  • Supported lobbying efforts to ensure recognition for Ireland’s Purple Flag destinations by the Department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and media following the implementation of a new administration. 

Stephen Hammond MP was elected Chair of the reconvened All-Party Parliamentary Group for Town Centres


Laura Blake joined ATCM during 2020 as Public Affairs Assistant to help manage the Coronavirus Crisis


With the support of various members, ATCM has worked with key policy makers including the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, High Streets Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, and Small Business Minister Paul Scully MP.



ATCM have co-signed a letter from Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calling for more business support in response to the Coronavirus Crisis.




  • Postponed the Town and City Management Industry Awards for 2020, with its expected return virtually for 2021 to be focused on the COVID response. 
  • Worked with Purple Flag destinations to delay renewals while there continues to be on-going disruption to the evening and night time economy. 
  • Revised Purple Flag to become a COVID-Secure accreditation, now asking destinations to demonstrate how they keep people safe from virus transmission. 
  • Begun conversations with the Purple Flag panel to understand how we enhance the way we undertake renewals to ensure we can keep assessors safe.
  • Started an ENTE Virtual Roundtable to bring together Purple Flag holders to share best practice.
  • Hosted an international Purple Flag roundtable at International Downtown Association’s Forward Together Conference, moderated by Six Till Six Director Sylvia Oates with contributions from Gothenburg (Sweden), Dominion Road (Auckland, New Zealand), Sligo (Ireland) and MAKE Associates.
  • Published a report ‘Reopening the Social Business Economy’ outlining how the application of the principles of Purple Flag can help rebuild NTE’s post pandemic featuring a Foreword from Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Adviser, Sacha Lord.

'Saving the Night: Can Purple Flag Support a Transition to a COVID-Secure Night Time Economy?' brought together representation from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden for an international discussion at Forward Together in October.



Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Adviser, Sacha Lord, contributed to the ATCM publication 'Reopening the Social Business Economy', providing a route map to the evolution of Purple Flag.



Purple Flag members come together to discuss their management of the night time economy during the pandemic with a ENTE Virtual Roundtable on the 11th November (including the moment we find out that Purple Flag is recognised by members of the Royal Family)



Added Value
Welcomed Visa on board as our second corporate member.

Partnered with Visa on the distribution of POS materials for small businesses reflecting urgent changes to the contactless payment limits so customers could avoid paying in cash.

Partnered with Google to encourage the use of free tools such as Search and Maps to boost high street visibility during lockdown.

We've supported thousands of small businesses with the distribution of POS materials to reflect changes in the limits for contactless payments.



We've worked with Google and our members to support small businesses by raising awareness of the free services that increase online visibility during a time when customer engagement has been forced to changed.



Change in Leadership

Aside from the internal changes forced on ATCM to adapt to life during a pandemic, we have also overseen a planned transition in leadership this year.

Leigh Brown's term came to an end this year, along with other valued members of the Board of Directors. She had provided excellent stewardship of the organisation for nearly four years, refocusing ATCM on delivering for practitioner members and the implementation of a streamlined business plan.

Replacing Leigh Brown, is Lisa Carlson of Canterbury BID, the first ever BID CEO to lead the UK and Ireland's urban place management industry as ATCM Chair.

Lisa has already stepped up, engaging with BEIS officials on the Brexit transition, representing BIDs at a property directors meeting of the British Retail Consortium and speaking to the BBC about the Bounce Back Better campaign.

The transition of the ATCM Board of Directors is ongoing with Lisa being joined by some of the industry's leading practitioners who will be announced in the New Year.

The excellent Leigh Brown (left) stepped down as Chair of ATCM as her term came to an end. She has been replaced by Lisa Carlson, CEO of Canterbury BID, the first ever BID CEO to lead ATCM.




2020 is not the year we thought it would be, and it is clear now the disruption will continue into, at least, the first half of 2021, if not beyond. ATCM’s physical events will remained postponed until further notice and membership delivery will continue to be focused on managing and recovering from the crisis. But we are already considering how we can improve support for members.

Evolution of Membership Delivery
Following a successful meeting of ATCM Wales, we would like to reintroduce specific meetings for our national networks. This will be alongside High Street Conversations which will remain open to all members across the UK and Ireland.

When it is safe to do so, physical events are likely to return but will be different. While virtual events cannot fully replace face-to-face meetings they have reduced costs and time member's commit to travelling. Therefore, we expect to move to a blended events schedule in time.

We welcome your thoughts on our performance this year and what we need to do next year. Please support us by completing this membership survey.

ATCM Membership Survey


2020 is not the year we expected it to be. The Coronavirus Crisis has led to the biggest shake up in ATCM’s delivery of membership services in years.

The speed with which we have had to change has been challenging. With the disruption likely to continue into 2021, it is important that we pause to reflect on the support we have offered, what we have got right, and what we can do better.

Honest feedback is welcome. Without it, we cannot meet our aspirations to ensure members are extremely satisfied with the level of service they receive.

To access the 2020 Membership Survey, click here.