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Supporting Local Economies through Global Challenges:
ATCM Annual Review for 2021

There is an unnerving feeling of Déjà vu.

2021 started with a difficult Christmas. A new variant of COVID more transmissible than the variant before is taking a grip, triggering a public health crisis in the middle of winter with deep uncertainty for businesses and town centres. It’s a familiar, but depressing, story. 

At the dawn of 2021, it was the Alpha variant, first identified in South East England. Today, its the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa. In between, we had Delta, both more transmissible and severe than Alpha. 

While the suffocating impact on footfall and sales is a disaster for our businesses, the one major point of difference is that we have twelve months of vaccine rollout behind us. This gives us hope that the restrictions at the beginning of 2022 will not be as long or broad as at the beginning of 2021.

The pandemic has brought with it multiple challenges to our local economies and a crisis of confidence in the viability of commercial property. ATCM has worked hard to manage these challenges. But, it is not just the pandemic that our members have had to pay close attention to. Brexit and climate change are also playing a disruptive role and, together, with the pandemic, have undermined the supply chain and created labour shortages.   Each of these issues on their own presents a threat to our businesses but the fact that they are all happening simultaneously underlines how difficult 2021 has been.

The fact that so many businesses are still trading despite these difficulties is partly down to the extraordinary work of the place management industry that has gone beyond the call of duty to protect the high street.

During 2021, ATCM is proud to have played a role in facilitating this support. Here is how…..

Knowledge Exchange

Once again, throughout the year, ATCM has dedicated significant time to ensuring our members are able to receive and share valuable information when it becomes available on anything from public health restrictions to towns centre economic performance. This has not exclusively been about sharing timely information through Basecamp. Through our extensive events programme we have engaged the following:

  • UK Hospitality

  • CBRE Ireland

  • Aviva

  • Cross River Partnership

  • The British Property Federation

  • The Booksellers Association

  • The Restaurant Collective

  • British Beer and Pub Association

  • Night Time Industries Association

  • Imperial College London

  • The World Economic Forum

  • Retail Excellence

  • Hospitality Ulster

  • International Downtown Association

  • The Light Cinema

  • The Prince Rupert Hotel

  • Lambert Smith Hampton

  • ukactive

  • Stagecoach

  • The Health Foundation

  • Bloomberg Associates

  • National Hair & Beauty Federation

  • Royal Town Planning Institute

  • Civic Voice

And many others…


During 2021, ATCM has worked hard to represent the industry on many key issues, shaping public policy and driving positive change.

We have worked closely with the UK Cabinet Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Town Centres, the Welsh Government, the Mayor of London, key ministers withing the UK Government, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and many other key people and institutions to represent the place management industry as best as we can.


While the pandemic has been disruptive to the undertaking of assessments for Purple Flag, the accreditation has been providing confidence at a time of unique challenges for the evening and night time.

We were delighted to work with the UK Cabinet Office to demonstrate Purple Flag destinations delivering safe, COVID-secure environments, using a case study of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury where portrait artist Ben Dickson created cut outs of Kent legends to create pleasant, socially distanced seating.

We have supported our members in Ireland by contributing to the Night Time Economy Task Force consultation developed by Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

And, we have been delighted to see the pro-active responses to challenges such as drink spiking adopted by Purple Flag destinations, and ensuring such responses are recognised by policy-makers such as those in the Home Office.

Here are the highlights for Purple Flag in 2021.

Added Value

During the year, ATCM continued to work on other key issues for our members. 

During an era in which contactless technology has grown in importance for high street businesses, we continue our important relationship with Visa.

We continue to co-chair the Sector Leaders Group of the High Streets Task Force in England with The BID Foundation, bringing together the likes of the British Retail Consortium, Revo and the National Market Traders Federation.

We are also continuing our work with the Home Office on supporting place managers in tackling urban gangs through the Violence and Vulnerability Unit.

Finally, with social inequity becoming a key concern over the pandemic, we are proud to join the ‘Open to Everyone, Closed to Racism’ campaign in a bid to ensure high streets are inclusive places for all.

Looking Forward to 2022

2021 has been another tough year for the industry and, as new restrictions come in to suppress the Omicron variant, the beginning of 2022 does not look any easier. It is why we would like to thank our members for their support throughout. As a membership-led network, ATCM’s programme of support would not be possible without the place leaders and managers who are the foundation of everything we do. We are ready for whatever 2022 throws at us.

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