Time for Towns
At a national level, towns have been neglected. They have suffered either from a lack of investment or lack of attention from national and devolved governments for a long time. The towns that saw their traditional economic bases disappear in the 1980s still persist as major locations of disadvantage. The abolition of the regional development agencies and the national regeneration agency (English Partnerships) in 2010 curtailed funding to English regions and blocked an important channel of communication into Whitehall.
Searching for Space
As the home to millions of citizens, businesses, and service providers, towns are particularly important places across the UK and Ireland. However, our report, Searching for Space, finds that there is a policy gap at the towns level. Across the jurisdictions, there are well-developed policies designed to progress cities and rural hinterlands, and often powerful groups working on their behalf. The report finds that towns are a neglected area of public policy – they are rarely taken as the basis for formal policymaking, or have the policy levers available to them to influence their fortunes.
Opportunities for towns
Towns still face challenges in being represented in policy and gaining access to appropriate development funding. This is critical with the opportunities presented by upcoming structural changes where the voice of towns needs to be heard.
Funds for towns as a whole, or regions of towns, have been lacking, but there are developments that we would like to see become opportunities – such as the Shared Prosperity Fund, Local Industrial Strategies, and in England the Stronger Towns Fund and the Future High Street Fund
We are working with other organisations to support towns and regional bodies to develop strategies to improve the wellbeing of their places. Towns will thrive if we focus on developing community wellbeing, where neighbourhoods can live well together, now, and in the future.