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 172.

    Who's Mary Portas..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    lichfield car park next the the library use to be free on a Sunday, now you have to pay. I use to be able to buy everything I need in town now I have to go to tesco (where it is free to park) Wish I could be paid a lot of money to state the obvious - greedy councils, high taxes and large supermarkets = bad news for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Just another symptom of globalisation & corporatism I'm afraid...every high street looks the same...the odd charity shop & bookies dotted between the never ending trail of costa coffees & tesco metros....
    a vast range of mundane, bland, dull, soul-destroying homogenised unethical tat...
    ...and they call it choice...
    We reap what we sow people...we reap what we sow!

  • Comment number 169.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    I would love to support smaller shops, and not supermarkets. The main trouble I have is working full-time, and when I leave work, the shops are closed.
    Maybe this is a social problem. We have families where both parents work. Both parents having to work, to cover heavy mortgage payments, and the price hikes in everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    There is only one way to revive the High St - go to the High St and do your shopping there. I ran a market stall selling perfume and makeup cheaper than any shop in town. I lost count of the number of people who would moan about the market being rubbish compared to a few years ago, then wander off and spend their money in Superdrug! Small businesses need paying customers - use it or lose it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    10 Minutes ago
    I avoid the centre as much as possible. Dirty, noisy, drunks, beggars and thieves all over the place. Parking charges stupid and shops dull.
    Hmm, why would this be then i wonder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Did she get paid for this? Lots of local authorities were already doing this - until the Tories cut their funding massively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    3 month short term lets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    High St shopping is dead, it has been killed by hassle free internet shopping and out of town retail parks.
    Why would anyone want to slog through busy traffic and pay large parking fees when they have a retail park 10 mins drive away with all the shops they'd find in the high street?
    Time city centres concentrated on other avenues the retail parks don't have such as restaurants, bars or housing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    we have to accept that high streets will nver go back to what they were & encourage alternative uses of premises, high streets with half the premises derelict really puts people off shopping there, The fact the high street is no longer the prime real estate that it was needs to be reflected in rents & rates, better some income than none for empty premises

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I avoid the centre as much as possible. Dirty, noisy, drunks, beggars and thieves all over the place. Parking charges stupid and shops dull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    another report published stating the obvious, how many of us had to be told expensive parking was one of the main issues of visiting the high street ,millions have been spent redesigning roads and infrastructure to keep us out of the very places they want us to return to, the question of employment and double dip recession will decide when we return to any retail therapy whereever that might be

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Free parking,clean paved areas,no drunks,clean public toilets,caring council,and police patrols.
    I live in Wolverhampton and we have non of the above,and its only time before it is no go area and ghost town.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Provide adequate free parking!

    If I visit my town centre, I have to pay £1.60 to park for a few minutes. Then it is about £1 p/h thereafter. This is after I have queued for about 15 minutes.

    Almost all my shopping can be done online, or at a 'superstore', where the parking is plentiful and free with no queue's.

    The town centre isnt walkable for most it serves!

    Buses are even less convenient!

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    I do wish the government would stop getting their advisers and 'Tsars' from the world of television. What next? 'Doctor' Gillian Keith as the new Health Minister?

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    One of the biggest problems, I think, is the cost of Parking, how can the high street compete against large shopping centres like the Trafford Centre in Manchester or Meadowhall in Sheffield that have free parking. In my home town of Lincoln it costs between £4.50 and £9.00 a day to park depending where you can get a space, I recently visited Brighton and it cost £9.00 to park for 2 hours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I will give Mary Portas her due , a lot of good recommendations and sensible . Parking and traffic are the two big issues then follow that up with diversity of offerings you just cant buy at out of town sites or supermarkets . Markets are a good way to draw in people . If this is success maybe the government can look at other areas of the economy in a similar way .

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    The amoutns of Money (£1 million here, £500,000 there £10 million fund etc) are HUGE.

    THat was sarcasm.

    Move higher rates to out of town centres, lower rates in town centres, make owners of buidings responsible for upkeep, encourage free city centre parking and allow markets. There, Sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Close supermarkets.
    It's that simple.


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