Mary Portas High Street plans get government go ahead


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The government has announced it has accepted "virtually all" 28 recommendations from Mary Portas in its bid to rejuvenate UK High Streets.

These will include creating dedicated "town teams" to manage High Streets and making parking more affordable.

It has also unveiled additional measures, including funding schemes and cutting back on red tape.

Last year, the government asked Ms Portas to compile a report on how best to revive the High Street.

The weak economy and rise of online shopping has hit some retailers hard.

On the back of Ms Portas' recommendations, the government has drawn up plans to launch:

  • a High Street innovation fund with £10m of taxpayer money focused on bringing empty shops back to life
  • a National Markets' Day to incentivise entrepreneurs to try out new ideas and encourage visitors to town centres
  • a £1m Future High Street fund to be awarded to towns that deliver the most effective rejuvenation schemes in a year's time
  • a further £500,000 fund to help towns access loans

Main Portas recommendations

  • Improve management of High Streets with new "town teams"
  • Affordable town centre car parking
  • "Town centre first" approach in planning
  • Disincentives for landlords who leave shops empty
  • Greater inclusion of the High Street in neighbourhood planning

The Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, Grant Shapps, said: "I'm accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas's review, but I'm also going one step further, with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their High Streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again."

He said he wants to see the town teams, to be made up of council members, local landlords, business owners and MPs, drive change in retail, entertainment and leisure, as well as in housing and public services.

He also committed to change planning rules on flat conversions above shops, and consult on abolishing centrally-set parking charges.

But he did not endorse the proposal to insist on an "exceptional sign-off" by the government for all new out-of-town developments.

A spokesperson from Mr Shapps' department said this was because local authorities were already required to refer out-of-town building proposals above a certain size to the secretary of state.

Makeover needed

Mary Portas said she would have liked to have seen yet more action taken.

"Naturally I would have liked greater central intervention in critical areas such as change of use, parking, business rates and the sign-off of new out-of-town developments and I will continue to fight for these," she said.

However, she said she was pleased to see the start of a fresh approach.

Ms Portas told the BBC why UK High Streets needed a makeover.

"Homogeny [in the 1990s] was when all the brands came over and all the massive retail chains rolled out across the country. And that did cause a problem but it still meant there were shops, it still meant there was footfall on the High Street," she said.

"Then what's happened, because of the growth of the internet, is all those massive chains have pulled the amount of shops that they need back."

She said the clock could not be turned back, but that there were plenty of ways to rejuvenate: "You're not going to have the same amount of shops on the small High Street. It's not going to happen. This isn't a nostalgia review that I've done here.

"But what you can do is you need to put some activity back on the High Street. Some of it will be independent small shops, some of it will be chains, some of it will be stuff we let go from our High Street.

"We should be looking at putting some of that activity back. Whether that's schools, whether that's gyms, whether that's creches, whether that's bingo halls, whether that's markets - that's the kind of thing we'll be looking at."

'Sustained effort'

The measures have been welcomed by retail groups.

Start Quote

Bolder moves which could have made a significant difference are missing”

End Quote Tom Ironside British Retail Consortium

"The announcements are very welcome," said John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.

"We called on the government to respond swiftly and positively in response to the Portas recommendations and that's what it has done."

He stressed the need for local councils to embrace the measures as part of "a sustained effort and focus on the longer-term solutions to get our High Streets back on their feet".

The British Property Federation (BPF) also welcomed the measures and stressed the need for local support.

"Government help on funding and policy is welcome, but ultimately if we want our High Streets to thrive, a clear, local-driven vision is required," said Liz Peace, chief executive of the BPF.

Mary Portas The government announced in May last year that Mary Portas would lead the review

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said there were "some positives" in the government's proposals, but it questioned whether the coalition had gone far enough.

"We were pleased with many of Mary Portas' findings, which set out a bold vision for the future of the High Street, but we're concerned the government hasn't yet matched her level of ambition with its response," said the BRC's director of business Tom Ironside.

"Bolder moves which could have made a significant difference are missing... This was an opportunity to revitalise our town centres for the 21st century but is in danger of becoming just another report on a dusty shelf."


The economic downturn that began in 2008 has added to problems besetting High Street shops, helping to trigger a number of high-profile closures at chains including Woolworths, Zavvi and Habitat.

The rise of internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres have also hit High Street retailers hard.

A recent report commissioned by the government found that both online and out-of-town shopping have risen, with online sales doubling since 2000 to 10% of overall sales.

The report also said that a third of UK High Streets are "degenerating or failing".

Figures released last week also suggested that more shops are going under.

The proportion of shops in Britain lying empty hit a new record of 14.6% in February, according to figures compiled by the Local Data Company.

Chart showing change in shops in town centres

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  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Like most people, I don't live in a town centre, why would I shop there? (Especially if I have to go by public transport.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    It is hard to see how these relatively tiny amounts of money are going to make a difference.

    All the comments about parking charges are true enough. Our local High Street is quite good, but there is very little parking and what there is has high charges and there are lots of traffic wardens patrolling, who will happily give you a ticket if you go a minute over the time.

    Free parking in towns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    We simply have too many shops.

    The government & councils should pay to convert shops into something else without the slow deteriorating eyesore that most become.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Put George Galloway in charge!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I am concerned at one of her proposals for a national market day. Some market traders rely on being able to visit a number of markets over a week and could be put out of business by such a proposal.
    I would like to see local councils empowered to reduce the rents on shops empty for more than say a year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    It is too late the allowing of the building of all those out of town shopping parks they have sucked the life out of the high streets there is nothing you can do all the local bussiness that had been there for a hundred years have gone bust they wont come back.Tescos is the main cilprit there are three on my local Higfh street in cardiff .

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Who needs the high street anyway? It was finished years ago. We should be re-purposing town centers with restaurants or something. Knock down a few buildings and plant some trees. I go to mine two or three times a year to buy clothes and that's it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    i would have sales every day especially at shops like ,hmv. shops which have been ripping off the cosumer day by day,
    -HMV is on the verge of collapse because people don't use the high street but buy on line, you want to give them a nudge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Reality check - talk to independent retailer's. Not only are exorbitant rents the problem, the worst culprits are Local Councils and Business Rates set by bureaucrats in ivory towers. They don't take risks they just want to protect their own back yard by building out of town sheds that have all the appeal of concrete blocks and which protect their revenues and therefore their own jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    High streets don’t just need to compete on price. Shopping centres suit all weathers, have wide flat concourses for buggys and wheelchairs, plenty of benches, and visible security. Lots of small high street shops are cramped, badly lit, badly laid out and couldn’t accommodate a buggy even if they managed to get over the step at threshold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Stop councils imposing rip off parking charges, stop councils charging exorbitant rates and where applicable shop rents, and sell goods at the same price as the out of town shopping markets and internet. If the internet can sell goods cheaper even when postage is added, there is something sadly wrong with high street pricing , or the shopkeepers are just plain greedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    "Last year, the government asked Ms Portas to compile a report on how best to revive the High Street."

    Since 2008 peoples main concerns on spending have been food in the larder and a roof over their head.
    Couple this with internet shopping extortionate parking charges rip off rents on shops and greedy rates demands from councils and it's easy to see how the tipping point was reached.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    There was one issue ignored in all of this which is business rates, the killer of the independent shop.

    Personally I think business rates should be abolished for shops with less than five outlets and the owners can elect to pay a higher level of corporation tax instead

    The beauty of this would be profits are taxed rather than failure which is the way of business rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    RBS owns a whole shopping mall in our town and now all the small shops are having to close because they have been asked for outlandish increases in rent. The whole complex is to become an outlet for cheap clothes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Peoples live and habits have simply changed. What's the point in shops being open 9 to 5, Mon to Fri when the majority of people they are attempting to attract are in work?
    Town centres need to be reclaimed by the whole community, particularly in the evenings. Currently after 5pm, at best you'll find a ghost town mid-week, at worst you'll be dodging drunken louts on the weekend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    After paying for rent, rates, stock, bank/credit card charges, utilities, security, theft and spoilage losses, insurance, fire alarm system, property maintenance, mandatory inspections, advertising, accounting fees, payroll costs, employers NI, VAT collection, IT infrastructure, training, sick/maternity/holiday pay, I'm not sure how it is possible to make a living from in a small high street shop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.


    "Why not follow other EU countries. shops on the ground floor accommodation above"

    You probably wouldnt get any sleep weekend nights due to the noise from drunks

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    #83 Jeremy. Completely agree about council greed with parking charges. There is one town near me that didn't go down this route, its the only town in the area with no empty shops in the high street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    The only to revive High Street shops is for the rents on them to fall considerably. Then small, independent retailers will be abl to make a living from them, and customers will have a more varied, interesting range of shops in each town - rather than a row of the same chains everywhere as they do now. We need a property prince crash - but government is still spending our money to prevent it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Has anyone asked the question of whether we SHOULD try to rejuvenate the high streets?

    Everyone says that they would prefer to shop on high streets but if that was true we would never have lost them in the first place. With our modern technology we have found that online shopping and out of town retail parks are simply better.



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