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Line-up for Future of High Streets debate

Whitechapel High Street (pre-pandemic), East London - with Whitechapel Art Gallery (1901) and mix of building ages and types

Acting as Director of Historic England's High Street Heritage Action Zone Programme, Louise Brennan will be speaking at our 'Future of High Streets' discussion this week.

She is joined at the forum by Sunderland City Council's Chief Executive, Patrick Melia, Portsmouth City Council's Member for Economic Regeneration, Cllr Steve Pitts, developer Igloo Regeneration's Chief Executive, Peter Connolly, National Museum of the Royal Navy Director General, Dominic Tweddle and the British Retail Consortium's Property Policy Advisor, Dominic Curran.

Historic England which is investing in high streets and their heritage, states that investing in historic places - although challenged by the pandemic - has helped to 'define our collective identity' and 'is one of the keys to the country's economic recovery'. Historic England talks about the vital role rescuing heritage has in levelling up economic opportunity, supporting skilled local construction jobs and boosting tourism.

Past Future Cities Forums have identified how both entertainment and cultural attractions have begun to re-surface as significant constituents of the high street, mixed in with retail and the bringing back of well-designed residential into and near to the centre of towns and cities.

The forum will ask the following questions: what is the role of culture in supporting the survival of our high streets and how does it underpin the revival of physical retail, what is the value of preserving and enhancing our high street heritage and in particular our historic shop fronts, how can museums help create new town centres or even high streets and how can councils make the most of the UK government funding to bring shoppers and visitors back to centres post Covid-19?

The British Retail Consortium has researched the losses of retail sales growth during 2020 with in-store non-food declining by 24% compared with 2019 due to the pandemic. The results have also been reflected it says in footfall which was down over 40% last year across city centres. After some retailers it reveals embraced rapid increases in demand, others found their doors closed for the third time in one year at the end of 2020.

The BRC calculates that the three lockdowns cost non-essential retail an estimated £22 billion in lost sales. It believes action on Rates, Rents and Grants is crucial to the recovery of non-essential (non-food)retailers and the wider economy, preventing the further loss of thousands of jobs in communities across the country.

Igloo Regeneration's Chief Executive, Peter Connolly will be discussing the ambitions of the Riverside Sunderland development which lies adjacent to the city centre. It presents a more sustainable approach to residential development, comprising 1,000 homes and one million square feet of office space where the car is restricted mainly to the fringes and orchards and allotments will be an important aspect of community amenities.

National Museum of the Royal Navy's Director General, Dominic Tweddle, will speak about the development plans and the collaboration with Hartlepool Council to create an improved dockside basin visitor district (around the historic frigate HMS Trincomalee) to create a focus for the centre of the town.


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