Institute of Place Management Chair, Professor Cathy Parker, answered questions from MPs during the first oral evidence session of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry 'High Streets and Town Centres in 2030'.

She explained how many problems facing high streets and town centres could only be solved locally. "Those responsible for high streets need to understand their local conditions in order to decide if a particular intervention is going to work - which makes spreading 'best practice' difficult because what succeeds in one place may automatically not do so in another."

Prof Parker added: "The evidence I gave to the committee was based on the research we have done on what makes successful town centres as well as the results of a consultation we ran in June, thanks to the support of Metropolis, the university's policy think tank.

"The consultation involved 50 place managers and was run in partnership with the The BID Foundation and the Association of Town and City Management.

"The committee wanted to know my assessment of how well town centres and high streets are performing, as well as barriers to their sustainability.

"They were also interested in how well government policy worked and my ideas on what could be improved."

Sitting alongside Prof Parker to give evidence to the committee was Bill Grimsey, a former Wickes and Iceland chairman who led both The Grimsey Review and The Grimsey Review 2, controversial alternate reports stating that high streets could only survive if they no longer relied on retail. The third witness was Dr Andres Coca-Stefaniak, Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing, Events and Tourism at London's University of Greenwich and IPM Fellow. 

Committee had done its homework

Prof Parker said: "I was impressed by the quality of the questions, the committee had obviously done their homework - and the evidence session built on many of the written evidence submissions provided, including our own.

"The major points I made were that business rates need reforming, town centre planning policy needs to put town centres first, and this power must not be whittled away through amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework.

"We need standardised indicators of high street performance to be collected and shared, stronger place leadership is needed - and decision-makers need much more support on the ground.

"Finally we need town centres and high streets to be on the agenda at the highest levels of government, all the time - not just periodically 'reviewed' then forgotten about again."