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Ministry of Housing and high street regeneration

Rachel Fisher, Deputy Director of Regeneration and Infrastructure at The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government , will be making the opening presentation at our October forum, 'City regeneration and place-making'. She was unable to attend our last forum due to unexpected family illness, but will now be appearing this autumn.

She has been invited to guest blog for us today and her words are shown below. Rachel highlights the importance of finding ways to support the modern high street, as well as improving productivity across the Cambridge - Milton Keynes - Oxford corridor.

Rachel Fisher writes:

'How do we create places that flourish? Who are the various actors involved in making that happen, and what are their motivations? These are some of the fundamental questions we need to think about when seeking to create cities of the future. In my work in the Cities and Local Growth Unit I am privileged to think about these issues from both ends of the spectrum, both in terms of creating new places, and also in how you support existing places to be the best they can be.

I’m currently leading the Government’s response into the future of the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford growth corridor. In 2015 Government invited the National Infrastructure Commission to investigate what could improve the productivity of this already economically vibrant place. In short their report in 2017 came back with two key findings; firstly, investment in East-West connectivity through both road and rail infrastructure, and secondly significant housing growth, up to a million new homes by 2050.

At Autumn Budget 2017 the Government issued its initial response, committing to transport investment and welcoming the ambitious housing proposals. The task is now to work through what this means on the ground, working with local leaders and stakeholders to understand the intricacies of infrastructure delivery, beyond the big kit, and thinking about the finer grain such as schools, GP surgeries and other community assets. Working across over 30 local authorities, presents challenges, but there are real opportunities to trying to think about place-making at such a strategic scale.

At the other end of the spectrum my team is responsible for high streets policy, and in particular the Great British High Streets awards, which we have brought back this year with significant sponsorship from Visa. We are looking to find examples of the best of British high streets, as well as stories from people who are making a real difference to their local place.

High Streets are the bell weather of towns, if they are thriving the town is seen to be thriving, and the opposite is also true. With so many negative news stories about familiar brand names going out of business or shutting stores it’s even more important to tell the really positive stories of high streets all over the country.

However, we know that there are structural changes at work, in the way that we shop, and the way that we live, which present challenges to high streets. That’s why we’re also bringing together a group of experts under the chairmanship of Sir John Timpson, to draw out practical policy responses that Government can make to support high streets that are struggling.

Fundamentally I think places need three things to be successful: an economic purpose, homes for people to live in, and means of connecting those homes and jobs – be that transport or increasingly digital connectivity. No matter if you’re dealing with a strategic growth corridor, or a high street - what’s important is to remember that ultimately we are trying to create places where people will want to spend time'.

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