The decline of high streets up and down the country is a well-worn tale. With shopping habits increasingly moving online many retailers are struggling and, as consumers, we often find we need more to entice us to visit our local high street. Whether that’s café’s and restaurants, public health amenities or attractive open spaces for leisure and relaxation, many high streets are struggling to keep pace with the changing needs of their local community. They need investment but, with local authority budgets already stretched to breaking point, it’s not always simple.
Arcadis has worked with local authorities across England to support them with expressions of interest and business case submissions for the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF). This is a key part of the government’s £3.6 billion investment in town centres and high streets up and down the country, and seeks to transform, renew and reshape these areas as part of the national levelling up agenda.
The programme prospectus launched on Boxing Day 2018 but, with the additional complexity of supplementary guidance and associated briefings, only became publicly available in February 2019. The fact that the deadline for Expression of Interest (EoI) submissions was then mid-March 2019 meant that a quick and flexible response was critical.
A rapid and successful response
Arcadis mobilised key experts through our town centres and high streets centre of excellence and formed multi-disciplinary teams, working in partnership with economic development consultants Genecon, to support our key local authority clients in making their submissions. This collaborative approach brought together all the skills necessary to respond to the Expression of Interest process, while simultaneously setting a solid foundation for a future business case.
We worked flexibly and at pace with Local Authorities to play a range of roles depending on their needs. This varied from acting as a critical friend to help review and finesse responses, to embedding ourselves in their teams. In some places we took full ownership of the Expression of Interest, developing the strategic narrative and engaging key stakeholders to gain their support.
We are pleased that all of the Expressions of Interest that Arcadis contributed to were successful and were invited to submit full business cases for their projects.
Developing robust business cases
Following the Expression of Interest process we supported many more local authorities to develop and submit their business cases across two tranches of submissions in June and August 2020.
Working as an integrated team with local authorities, other consultants and a range of specialists from across Arcadis, we provided multi-disciplinary teams to develop and deliver Green Book compliant, Five Case Model business cases.
We responded to the needs of different local authorities in various ways, from providing project management and business case leadership to offering the complete team required to deliver the business case. This included our full breadth of design and engineering input, as well as stakeholder engagement and cost expertise.
Our centre of excellence shared lessons learned across the country through regular engagement across all teams. This allowed us to respond quickly to emerging guidance on a fast paced and evolving programme of work, bringing best practice to each one of our clients quickly. The added complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had on the high street was a challenge, but one that our collaborative approach allowed us to respond to and overcome.
The projects for which we delivered business cases are strategically important to the future of high streets across England. In many cases, they have been shaped to directly respond to existing challenges that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. They will therefore play a key part in the recovery and the future of places which have been facing the most challenges nationally.
Working on the Future High Streets Fund is part of a wider portfolio of work through which Arcadis is helping to shape the future of town centres across the country as they respond to accelerating long-term trends and the impact of COVID-19.
As well as FHSF, we are working with Local Authorities who are submitting Town Deal submissions, developing masterplans for the future of their town centres and high streets and delivering the projects which are shaping them for the long term.