Last week saw several announcements about what is happening on UK High Streets. It was a chance to celebrate for some as the short-listed entrants to the Great British High Street Awards assembled in Lancaster House, London, (above) to hear who had been judged as the winners. Meanwhile, less good news emerged on falling footfall and falling sales in high streets.

In awards presented by Minister for the High Street, Jake Berry, Crickhowell was named not only as Champion High Street for Wales but also as UK's best high street. Altrincham in England, Alness in Scotland and Portadown, Northern Ireland, were the other national champions.

240 entries were submitted for this year's awards. The winners were selected through a combination of inspection visits by judges experienced in what makes successful high streets and a public vote for the short-listed entries. Crickhowell was praised for its 'Totally Local' campaign which engages more than 100 local businesses undertaking initiatives to boost local spending. The high street is full of independent businesses who work together to support its development and sustainability.

In Altrincham, a wide range of initiatives including the refurbishment of the central market to provide a food offering, a new transport interchange, a new central library and targeted work to attract new retailers is supported by a packed events programme that has seen retail vacancy fall dramatically. Alness is another location where there is a strong independent presence on the high street. Businesses have worked together for many years, with a focus on variety as well as great service. They were one of the leaders in initiating disabled-friendly shopping. Portadown hosts many events through the year that draw people to the town, both in the centre and in the surrounding area. They are looking to the future with a range of environmental initiatives and working with businesses to develop digital skills. Further investment in public realm works are planned.

As well celebrating initiatives that have been successfully delivered in local high streets, the Awards this year for the first time also recognised ambitious high streets that are taking a lead to revive, adapt and diversify their offers in some way with plans in place for the next 12 months. Burnley Road in Todmorden was named as the Rising Star winner in England, High Street in Newport-on-Tay in Scotland, High Street in Cowbridge in Wales and Bow Street in Lisburn in Northern Ireland.

The Great British High Street Awards are an initiative of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and this year were sponsored by Visa. They are supported by leading trade associations and industry bodies and based on our experience they generated considerable interest in many high streets. We understand that they will run again in 2019 and we will publish details when available.

The celebration of the high street came in the week that data suggested the struggle for many high streets continues. Springboard published their monthly update for October which showed a year on year decline of 2.3% in high street footfall. There were significant regional variations in the figures. Scotland's high streets saw a decline of 7.5%, the East of England 7.3% and the East Midlands dropped 6.5%. In Northern Ireland, however, high street footfall was up 4.0% and it rose slightly in Greater London, up 0.2%.

Also published last week was data from Visa compiled by IHS Markit which showed that though overall consumer spending in October fell 0.2%, face-to-face spending actually fell 2.0% in the month whilst online spending rose 2.6%. The face-to-face fall comes after a 1.2% rise in September.

It is clear that the structural change happening in the high street is very real. Many high streets are responding though. In the next few weeks we expect to hear more about the £675 million High Street Fund announced in the Budget. Places need to recognise the change that is occurring and make plans for how they should respond. The Great British High Street winners and short-listed towns may supply some inspiration but the initiatives taken forward must be right for your town.

Institute Co-Chair Simon Quin was one of the judges in the Great British High Street Awards.