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 212.

    Drastically reduced rates for shopkeepers and similarly parking fees, basically less greedy councils/governments = better competition and more employment for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Imagine it's 1950 or 1960, the shops closed on Sundays and they were all in the town, they were doing well as we had little or no option to use them and most of us went by bus.Then all of a sudden supermarkets and out of town shopping centres were popping up everywhere, someone invented the internet and powerful online shopping is born, the shops would be where they are now by 1970

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Even where some high streets in the more attractive towns appear to be surviving, the local authorities seem to have turned, not just the centre, but most of the town into a no go area with draconian parking arrangements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Check out Wembley High Street. Four pawnbrokers. Four 'pound an item' type shops. The only chain listed is Thomas Cook. Ask yourself why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    There are only so many takeaways I can eat, pints I can drink, bets I can make, donations i can give. I need reviving after all that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Why no HYS on Galloway Auntie beeb? Too controversial? Told not to by government? It's the biggest story of the day and the one most polarising of opinion. Go on, grow a pair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Apply the 'shopping mall' mentality to the management of the high street. If car parking is too expensive, why not arrange for a discount/free parking if it's validated by a high street retailer. Keep rent and business rates down. Promote street activity - entertainers, market stalls, street food vendors. Make visiting enjoyable instead of a hassle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    196.A Realist
    "If you can't park, how do get your shopping home?"

    Much in the same way as people did in the past before most owned cars - they caught the bus/tram or walked, but I understand where you're coming from. People, especially women who used to be housewives but now have to work, have less time to do the shopping so go less but buy more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    @198.smell the coffee
    The best town centres have a vibrant mix of cinemas, pubs, clubs, and other leisure activities as well as shops
    You'll find that 99% of those entertainment options are all the same, corporately operated, bland and unoriginal. Independent business has been priced out of the "successful" town centers and replaced by giants who can spread the profit/loss. That's the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    The more pound, mobile, and shell suit shops there were, the less people shopped. Add to that the parking charges and badly planned 'traffic systems' or roads to you and me, it isnt worth verturing out to my local town.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Free car parking for 2 hours, would turnaround town centers. But central Goverment has issued a decree that Councils must find every which way to raise money. Result empty shops, no rents etc coming in people unemployed, town goes downhill. Here in Clacton-on-Sea there are many car parks, pay n display, empty, town centre going downhill. Not rocket science is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Where I live the Council introduced parking charges on all car parks to huge outcry from the traders. However, they were quite happy to have 2 floors of the multi-storey car park (out of 5) turned over to them for their cars. If you want to shop and you park on the wrong floor you get a ticket.


  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Since the late 90s, local authorities have been obsessed with digging up high streets at enormous expense to workers and business for re-creating LA CEOs of their holidays in France.

    Parking in high streets now is impossible to find, for workers and customers. Plus, multi-storey car parks are increasingly expensive and unsafe. Stairways stink of urine and no security for customers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    The best way for high streets to survive is for them to be supported to get on-line and deliver locally through internet ordering. If I could order from a local high street business and have it delivered the next day I would do that rather than shop from a corporate giant. They need to team up to offer delivery services and get on the net as a "virtual high street" for their community.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    i'm all for revitalising the town centre but why does it have to be all about shopping? The best town centres have a vibrant mix of cinemas, pubs, clubs, and other leisure activities as well as shops. Good on Mary tho. Along with Alex Polizzi she is doing a fab job of bringing business nous to the masses. Love her straight talking can do approach

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    193.A Realist
    'All the old customers have moved or died and immigrants support their own shops.'

    This is why the High Street is over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    I no longer shop in Hounslow. The minimum cost to park is now £1.50 & the Traffic Warden's have electronic aids to assist them track the cars can be issued with a £60.00 fine! While most of the shops are £/99p/98p/97p type selling poor value tat, there are a couple of Charity shops - but the local demographic are not known for giving stuff away. If you can't park, how do get your shopping home?

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Perhaps people are fed up with lack of user friendly facilities in town centres. No parking, public transport with no parcel space, assistants who think they're doing the shopper a favour & local authorities who live in a dream world. I'm sorry but it's too late for town centres to recover. Unless of course they sell cold pasties next to a microwave hire shop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Landlords and councils use high streets to line greedy pockets - and the rent/rates/parking compared to Europe are far too high. Tomorrow I will be in Alencon (parking cost about 40p for half a day - with 2hrs lunchtime free) - in shops owned by locals - with a big market serving local foods - rents at 20% of UK levels and people that are great to be with. The UK has destroyed its high streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    I used to be a Saturday Boy at my local BHS in Hounslow. The Manager was a fatastic Leader who understood High St retailing. We led the BHS group in £ profit/sq ft. Next door was Giltrow's the baker, then M & S. Further down was C&A. No longer. Only M&S remains - and that's an Outlet. The food department is rundown. All the old customers have moved or died and immigrants support their own shops.


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