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 272.

    Get rid of so many Charity shops, just ridiculous. I understand the importance of giving to Charity, but the nearly every high street is full of them! Also think most shops need makeovers, they look pretty manky and dull. And maybe some places that are free for people to hang out, shopping is tiring, so it would be good to have some indoor buildings for people who just want to put their feet up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Why should we be spending taxpayers' money to attempt to alter habits that shoppers have developed? I suppose the only answer can be that the amounts being allocated are so piddlingly small that they'll make no difference - but the Government gains a bit of useful PR without affecting anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I think the high street has seen its best days and will not be able to revive itself fully.
    The internet will continue to change the way we buy our goods and services and the high street needs to move with the times.
    Perhaps a virtual shopping experience in stores with much smaller floor areas, where the customer can view a sample of a product and then order online?

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Tokenism, soundbites call it what you like.

    What on earth are funds of £1m, £0.5m etc. going to do in an economy the size of the Uk's ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    To all those knocking Mary Portas as a "Tele` celeb".
    .some CV notes...

    ... Mary later became responsible for windows and display at Harrods and then Topshop. Mary went on to join Harvey Nichols in 1989 and is credited with transforming the brand into the world renowned store and restaurant group it is today. After leading the transformation Mary left Harvey Nichols as Creative Director in 1997.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    It stands very little chance of achieving success, with government policy stacked against small business, aided and a betted by banks. How can anyone justify trying to start a shop when they are undercut by supermarkets, and have to pay high rents, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Shopping is, by nature, bulky and heavy. People shop where they can park. If you want to revive the High Street, you need to make free parking available (retail parks tend to have free parking), otherwise you won't get the footfall.

    The other problem is that High Street retail units are too small and densely packed compared to warehouse units. They lack stock and aren't pleasant to shop in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.


    When you say Community Charge do you mean Council Tax or do you mean everyone who is a wage earner within a Community should contribute - rather like a Community Income Tax? How do you expect to be able to collect it? Or is it the Poll tax reincarnated?

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    I just realised who this Portas woman is, a telly celeb.

    Calamity Cameron is consulting telly celebs again for some policy ideas.

    Truly truly pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Its all anout footfall. Once it has gone no single shop will bring it back. This makes new enterprises doomed to failure unless they can afford expensive City Centre rents and rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Tio Terry


    Whilst I have a lot of sympathy with your suggestions, how do you suggest the Councils recoup the moneys lost by such suggestions? Are you advocating an increase in Council Tax? What would you like to see replace the loss in revenue? Reduced services?


    Yes, by increase in Community Charge (not reduced services). We should pay direct, not by stealth means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Am I the only one to notice how filthy and awful many of the small corner grocery shops are? Windows full of massive advertising decals - inside a space to stack food rather than display it. (and its generally more expensive than supermarkets) That's, unfortunately, why I go to out of town large supermarkets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.


    Whilst I have a lot of sympathy with your suggestions, how do you suggest the Councils recoup the moneys lost by such suggestions? Are you advocating an increase in Council Tax? What would you like to see replace the loss in revenue? Reduced services?

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    My town suffers from "get what you can; no questions asked" syndrome. There are two Subway sandwich shops on the same street, two Orange stores, two Greggs, two GAME stores, two Waterstones. Just to fill space. I think a new outlook might be needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    The first thing to do is NOT to take notice of some self proclaimed TV expert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    There is no political will to stop the greed of Councils or rubbish cheap chain stores.

    These ideas are just a pipe dream of government hot air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    The days of a variety of quality shops on the High Street is sadly over.

    Greed of Councils is one problem. The other is we have been duped by government and business to shop shop shop 24/7 for things you don't need or want just to support our ailing service economy. This is a mall mentality.

    These initatives are hot air and won't change a thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Nottingham is going ahead with the imposition of charges for people parking at work, I'm amazed the government hasn't also spotted a good cash cow. They could directly charge out of town shopping centres and hypermarkets for the privilege of having huge car parks and use this money to subsidise parking in towns. There might even be some cash left over to tidy up a few high streets. Even things up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    In case you don't agree with my previous comment #250 then do what I do... Just shop online! Viva "Amazon" and "Tesco on line"

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    The reason I use out of town retail parks is simply that there is plenty of parking, the parking is free and the shops are open when I need them to be. The High Street has little parking, if you can find a space it costs a fortune and the shops are generally closed when I need them. High Street is damaged beyond repair in many areas.


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