Retail NI and NILGA call for establishment of High Streets Taskforce
"New levels of partnership between the Executive, Councils, business and wider society" are required, according to Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts
23 June 2020
Retail NI and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) have jointly called for Northern Ireland’s Executive to establish a High Streets Taskforce to spearhead a combined push for the regeneration of town and city centres in the aftermath of Covid-19.
“Creating 21st century high streets was a challenge before Covid-19; now it is an even bigger one as we chart the long way forward for retail, hospitality and our economy as a whole,” said Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts.
Calling for “a fundamental reinvention of our high streets”, Roberts said the task would “require new levels of partnership between the Executive, Councils, business and wider society to achieve all of this”. He said that the ‘old normal’ is not a recipe for the long-term future.
“The newly established High Streets Taskforce in England quite rightly describes this regeneration framework of being the four Rs: repositioning, reinventing, rebranding and restructuring,” Roberts said, noting that the governance of Northern Ireland’s high streets must change.
“That is why we need a Northern Ireland High Streets Taskforce which creates this new partnership model and starts us on this new beginning,” Roberts continued.
Retail NI has subsequently written to the Communities Minister to propose this as part of the Executive’s wider economic recovery response package. While noting that the executive has “made a good start in supporting our high streets, with rates holidays, £300k for Business Improvement Districts and allowing greater flexibility on pavement café licences,” Retail NI nevertheless believes “they must go further”.
“The importance of retailing to the communities and economy of the north cannot be overstated,” said NILGA president Cllr Matt Garret.
“We need collective, urgent action,” added Cllr Garret. “A Taskforce for High Streets of this type would be a positive, joint step forward – retailers, central and local government working together. Place-based approaches are seen to really work, so the role of councils in a post-Covid recovery of the high street – whether rural or urban – and the resources required to do it well – will be clearly communicated by NILGA to the Economy Minister and the Assembly Committee in the coming days.”