For town centres, the most important of all public sector bodies are local authorities. That’s because they manage so many functions that impact on town centres: roads, transport planning, economic development, planning, licencing, social care, education, community development and more.
Because local authorities have so many functions that affect the success of town centres, it is vital that they are part of your collaborative approach. Ideally, your local authority will be signed up as a collaborative partner at a senior level, through councillors or senior managers, as well as individual departments or staff helping to deliver specific projects. Remember though, that local authorities have suffered huge cuts in resources over the last few years, and so cannot offer unlimited support to local communities.
There are lots of examples throughout this Toolkit of the different ways in which local authorities can use their powers and resources to help regenerate town centres. Here are just a few of the more important ones:
- Supporting re-use or enhancement of vacant and historic buildings (see Buildings and Property).
- Investing in new public facilities in town centres, rather than elsewhere (see Buildings and Property).
- Working with local communities to plan the future of the town centre.
- Helping to develop Improvement Districts or business associations.
- Managing council assets and service delivery in line with the overall vision for improving the town centre – including streets, schools, public spaces, parking, environmental health, refuse collection and more besides.
Local authorities are also a good starting point to contact other public sector organisations in your town centre like the NHS, emergency services, further and higher education, and other government agencies – because they will already work together in each local authority area through a process called Community Planning. If you’re not sure who to contact, start with your local authority’s Community Planning team.
The Local Government Association (England and Wales) has produced an online toolkit for local authorities, giving practical guidance and resources to assist local authorities in taking a strategic and evidence-based approach to revitalising town centres. It was updated in 2020 to include Covid-19 recovery planning.