The House of Lords has recognised Manchester Met’s expertise in town centre research with its appointment of Dr Lucy Montague as Special Advisor to its Built Environment Select Committee.

Dr Montague, Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Architecture, will be playing a crucial advisory role in the Committee’s inquiry into how high streets in towns and small cities can be regenerated and become more resilient and attractive.

She will provide specialist expertise on high street revival, recommend potential witnesses to give evidence, and advise on the production of the final report and recommendations that will ultimately be delivered to government – and to which they will be required to respond.

Dr Montague said: “I am delighted to have been appointed to advise the committee throughout their important work on this matter and to be able to put the findings of our high streets research to such direct use.

“This inquiry is extremely timely. UK high streets continue to face their biggest challenges yet, and what we do now will have a huge impact on how quickly, how equitably and to what extent they can successfully evolve.”

Once the heart of local communities across the country, high streets have faced numerous changes that have made it difficult for businesses to remain open, including the rise of online shopping, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflationary pressures.

The Built Environment Committee’s inquiry will consider the different uses of high streets by various organisations and businesses, and what is essential for them to thrive both economically and socially.

Manchester Met is well placed to offer expertise on these matters, having last year published the findings of its extensive three-year study of 100 high streets which highlighted issues and solutions for the regeneration of town centres.

Co-authored by Dr Montague alongside Visiting Professor of Urbanism David Rudlin and independent consultant Vicky Payne, the research revealed, among other solutions, that a focus on independent stores and ‘browse only’ shops could be key to reversing the fortunes of the struggling high street.

Dr Montague added: “Our towns and cities are never finished but constantly evolving. This does not mean we can leave them to their fate but that we must continually ensure we have the right policies, funding and initiatives in place that enable success in economic and community terms.”

Other high streets research is also taking place at the University. Manchester Met’s Institute of Place Management is leading the Government’s High Streets Task Force in supporting the transformation of 138 High Streets in England, including expert University advice to develop strategies for positive change.