Why a Step Change if Required in Town and City Management
The town and city management industry needs to evolve. The case for this is clear and the rationale, compelling.
Our industry emerged in response to the introduction and growth of out-of-town competition. Traders developed informal partnerships to fulfil basic operational tasks for high streets such as street cleaning, crime reduction and the removal of unwanted graffiti from buildings.
These informal partnerships have evolved, almost beyond recognition. No longer are they a loose affiliation of traders. Local government saw a need to get involved to coordinate activity and drive forward the agenda. Things have come full circle with the introduction of BIDs, putting the private sector front and centre of managing commercial districts again, this time, with formal structures, better business engagement and more strategic delivery. And less formal, independent schemes continue to have a huge role to play, such as many of the Town Teams that emerged in the wake of the Portas Review. Today, the mechanisms for managing town and city centres are many and various, spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The evolution of town and city management models has led to the increased sophistication of activities. ‘Cleaner, greener, safer’ is still central to the industry but today, it encompasses things like tackling air pollution, coordinating local counter-terrorism measures or supporting the vulnerable and homeless. It includes driving inward investment, identifying and closing local skills gaps, shaping transport policy and developing a commercial and social vision for urban centres. However, despite the excellent work of our members, the fact remains that our industry is still in its infancy.
From Influence to Control
The financial recession was a wake up call. Combined with a digital revolution which is transforming the economy, the amount of business churn in town centres has been significant. While change is healthy, huge question marks remain over whether our members have sufficient control over this change to support managed transitions. In areas of multi-landlord ownership, developing a coherent tenant mix that enhances the local economy is challenging. Too many high streets face long-term empty properties, an oversupply of certain frontages that do not generate footfall and unhelpful change-of-use that sometimes contradict sensible planning principles. All this despite the existence of town and city management industry that has existed since the late 20th Century.
The time has come for us to rethink the town and city management model. Place managers working for the good of the local economy need to develop from having indirect influence over activities in the town centre to having greater control over both local economic strategy and delivery. Therefore, ATCM will gear up to focus on the changes required both within the industry, its key stakeholders and within public policy to ensure that our town and city centres will flourish. Ultimately, we need to live up to the mantra of helping people make great places.
There should be no underestimating the scale of the task ahead of us. Despite town and city management in various forms, being in the ascendency for several decades, there remain key barriers to comprehensive management structures taking root and delivering real local growth, one of which is better engagement with those who make important investment decisions.
Achieving Better Engagement – Introducing the Great Places Accreditation Scheme
A strong accreditation system, with the right assessment mechanisms and aimed at the right audience, can change behaviour for the better. It can bring important players round the table locally, fostering engagement, improving commercial viability and providing the foundation for the evolution of the town and city management industry across the UK and Ireland.
By being able to evidence and demonstrate the strength of a partnership and the high level of commitment from the public, private and voluntary sectors, we intend to use this accreditation programme to drive investment opportunities from a range of interests in town and city centres. Investors, developers and businesses of all kinds want to know that they are supporting an area which has a joined up vision and excellent management that will deliver a strong return on investment. They want to know that creative space exists where the complexity of competing interests can be successfully managed to meet the needs of the consumer. They also want to be confident that where problems arise locally, they can be resolved quickly and efficiently. ATCM, with a consortium of partners, will support the launch of a new accreditation programme for town and city centres that will establish commitment and engagement as key targets for any town centre.
Considerable work has already gone into the quest to develop a credible process of assessment that offers real value to partnerships while addressing the challenges and prospects. Partners of ATCM have been asked to adapt techniques that they apply within their different disciplines to support the accreditation of places.
Affording stakeholders and consumers more transparency will generate more engagement, but we also appreciate that this carries some implicit risk. Therefore, during 2018, ATCM will work with selected Accreditation Champions in a series of Pathfinder initiatives, to prove and refine the accreditation process and to allow members to gain an early understanding of the scheme and an opportunity to influence its development.
Accreditation Champions will be at the forefront in pioneering new national standards that will help the place management industry to take progressive strides towards the future. Champions will receive an area accreditation assessment and the help of the team in strengthening place management, reinforcing partnerships, and reviewing viability & vitality per formance objectives.
ATCM will select up to a dozen pilots. Accreditation Champions will have partnerships that can already demonstrate success against some of the Core Accreditation themes and standards. This will allow us to put the principles of accreditation into practice.
The Accreditation will be shaped by the ATCM Advisory Council and Board. The design concept for the accreditation will be developed by place branding experts Small Back Room.
The complexities facing the town and city centre management industry requires new tools and new ways of working. ATCM is confident that the Accreditation will help practitioners to encourage dynamic governance that allows engagement and collective action.
For more information on becoming an Accreditation Pathfinder email Lewis Kirnon firstname.lastname@example.org