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Built Environment Committee launches new inquiry into high streets

23 February 2024

The Built Environment Committee has launched an inquiry into high streets in towns and small cities.

Focus of the inquiry 

High streets, which were once the heart of local communities up and down the country, have faced numerous changes that have made it difficult for businesses to remain open.  

Recent challenges include the rise of online shopping, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and inflationary pressures changing consumer behaviour and leading to high operational costs for businesses.  

Between March 2020 and March 2022, 9,300 retail outlets on high streets closed in Britain, with department stores, clothing shops and banks among the categories with the highest number of closures.  

This inquiry will seek to understand how high streets can be regenerated and become more resilient and attractive. It will consider the different uses of high streets by various communities and businesses and what is essential for them to flourish economically and socially.  

Given the shift in working and shopping patterns post-pandemic, it will look at how high streets could adapt and remain successful in the future. The inquiry will explore what types of spatial design and transport connectivity could allow greater footfall and better accessibility.  

It will assess whether the Government’s vision and support for high streets is fit for purpose and whether local authorities have the right tools to help local areas thrive. The committee’s focus is on England, as many relevant matters are devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 

This cross-party committee was appointed in 2021 to consider housing, planning, transport and infrastructure. It is chaired by Lord Moylan. 


The committee is seeking answers to the following questions: 

  1. How do you define a high street in a town or small city and what is its purpose? 
  2. What should be included on high streets to meet the needs of the whole community?  
  3. What are the obstacles to bringing underused property on the high streets back into use? 
  4. Who is involved in ensuring a thriving local high street and does the current structure of Government support facilitate those groups in working together? 
  5. What role does the planning process have in determining the success or failure of the high street locally and is it fully able to address the challenges high streets face? 
  6. What has been the impact of national level planning policies regarding high streets in the last five years and are any changes required?   
  7. What should be done to ensure that high streets being redeveloped now are structurally and financially resilient for future societal changes? 
  8. How can spatial planning, street design and layout help to drive greater footfall to high streets?  
  9. Has the High Streets Taskforce been effective in providing support and expertise in high street recovery and what should this look like in the future? 
  10. How can transport connectivity be improved to facilitate better access to high streets and town centres and how should this be funded? 
  11. To what extent are the Government’s funding programmes to support high streets, such as the Town Deals and Future High Streets Fund, successful?  

The deadline for submissions of written evidence is 22 March 2024.  

Chair’s comments 

Lord Moylan, Chair of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee, said: 

“High streets, which many people consider as a hub for their communities, face numerous challenges. Our inquiry will explore how high streets can be regenerated and become more resilient and attractive.  

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible. If you have a view on any aspect of our inquiry, look at our call for evidence and let us know what you think.” 

Further information

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