England & Wales Economy and regeneration, Housing and planning

Future of Town Centres



High streets and town centres have featured prominently in public discussion for many years, a tradition which has carried on under the last Coalition Government. The review undertaken by Mary Portas in 2011 echoed concerns remarkably similar to those set out in reports commissioned over twenty years previously, with the impact of the Internet and on-line shopping adding to the familiar pressures out-of-town shopping and a decline of independent retailers.

This seminar takes stock of policy for high streets and town centres and of the contribution to the ‘high street offer’ of elements like street markets, arts, and culture. Delegates are invited to engage with the speakers throughout the day, and there will be an opportunity to participate in an in-depth discussion in the afternoon session, led by Julian Dobson, author of  How to save our town centres.



9:30: Registration and refreshments

09:55: Welcome: Andrew Jones

10:00: Two Decades of Town Centre Management: Where we have been and where we are going:  Ojay McDonald, Policy Manager, Association of Town & City Management

11:00: Arts, Culture and Town Centres: Lessons from international experience: Ged Gibbon

12:00: Love Your Markets: How markets support town centres: Graham Wilson, Chief Executive of the National Association of British Market Authorities

13:00: Lunch

14:00: Preparing for the Future: The town centre in ten years’ time Julian Dobson, Urban Pollinators

  • What will be the biggest challenges and how can local authorities be prepared for them?
  • Who are town centres for?
  • How can town centres fulfil their potential? Grand plans or organic adaptation?

16:00: Close


* This programme was correct at the time of publication but may be altered to reflect speaker changes that are beyond our control.

  Julian Dobson Julian Dobson is the author of How to Save Our Town Centres, published by Policy Press in 2015. He is a writer, speaker and commentator on place, society and social policy. He is director of the research and policy consultancy Urban Pollinators (www.urbanpollinators.co.uk). He was co-founder and for 12 years was editorial director of New Start, the UK’s magazine for regeneration practitioners, and previously edited Inside Housing, Britain’s national publication for social housing professionals. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a board member of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies and an external adviser to Sheffield University’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Ged Gibbons Ged Gibbons has over 30 years in Local Government, and almost 20 years in town centre management, including six years as chief executive of Liverpool's two Business Improvement Districts. In 2008 Ged was Senior Events Support Manager for Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture. Currently, he advises at home and abroad on town and centre city centre management, BIDs, and events management (he was in charge of the finish for the Le Tour de France in Harrogate, Yorkshire in 2014). He is currently standing as a candidate in the May Local Elections. Andrew Jones Andrew Jones has over 25 years’ experience in economic development in various posts in central government, Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs), commercial consultancies, think tanks, and academia. He has conducted and led numerous research and evaluation studies, on topics ranging across local labour market analyses, urban regeneration, recycling, urban governance, neighbourhoods, and HE-employer engagement. He has edited the journal Local Economy since 2004, which expanded publication from four issues a year to eight in 2009. In addition, he currently teaches economics at London South Bank University.  Ojay McDonald   As Public Policy Manager, Ojay is responsible for sustaining a dialogue between ATCM’s membership network and policy-makers to develop healthy towns and city centres across the UK. Ojay has extensive policy experience following employment with the Retail Enterprise Network at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Here, he was the lead author of a non-judicial report entitled High Street Britain 2015, for the All Party Group for Small Shops. High Street Britain 2015 generated worldwide debate regarding the supply of food, warning parliamentarians of weaknesses in the supply chain and the possibility significant retail attrition from the high street, forcing a Competition Commission review of the grocery sector in the UK. Graham Wilson A lawyer by profession Graham was Head of Legal Services at Wakefield MDC and Chief Officer for Central Services before becoming Chief Executive of the National Association of British Market Authorities in 2002. During his time with NABMA he has helped raise the profile of markets through a range of research projects and the creation of market events such as the annual Love Your Local Market fortnight in May which last year involved twelve hundred markets and was celebrated in sixteen countries. Graham works closely with government on the role of markets in town centres and has been a member of the Further High Streets Forum and is currently serving on a number of inter-agency working groups. In the past he has been an advisor to the Local Government Association and other local government groups.    
Who should attend?
This seminar is relevant for Leaders, elected members, senior management and officers  involved in economic development and town centres for their local authority.