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Mary Portas’ Plan to Revive the High Street

December 13, 2015

lifestyle, news

 

High street consultant Mary Portas has published plans for improving the high street and cut business rates.

Image: Gwydion M. Williams

While it has been backed by business groups, landlords and bookmakers are not so sure of the wisdom behind the plans – which include stricter controls on establishing betting shops in deprived areas.

The seven-month review highlighted dwindling choice on the high street in favour of out-of-town shopping malls and online shopping.

Between 2000 and 2012, 25,000 town centre shops closed with a further 9,000 of the remaining  140,000 expected to disappear over the next three years.

Portas said that communities have been sacraficed in favour of convenience, and that towns should be more resistant to generic fast-food outlets, charity shops and bookmakers, allowing a revival of “multi-functional and social shopping high streets.”

However, betting shops generate almost £1bn in tax every year, drive footfall through strugging high streets all over the country, and support more than 100,000 jobs; and landlords are not in tune with the call for Secreary of State level “sign-off” on out-of-town planning applications.

One of the difficulties facing new entrepreneurs is the ability to choose what service to offer communities and shoppers. Currently planning legislation makes it difficult to alter the original purpose of a property – to change a restaurant to something like a gym or a nursery is tied up in red tape.

The FSB supports the plan but says that it doesn’t go far enough to tackle issues such as convenient and cheap parking – which is pulling consumers away from the high street to out-of-town malls.

Market stalls feature in the review for the Prime Minister, but local authorities are concerned that relaxing the rules around setting-up market stalls will open the door for unscrupulous traders flooding the market place with counterfeit goods and taking advantage of cash-strapped families.

There are certainly solid arguments on both sides, but the Government’s response to the report won’t be revealed until next Spring.

Mary Portas’ recommendations include:

  • Grant teams of traders, landlords, councils and consumers the power to decide mix of shops and services
  • Require Secretary of State to approve out-of-town developments
  • Use markets to drive footfall and reduce licensing legislation
  • Generous business rate relief for small and new businesses; 80% relief for charity shops
  • Controlled free parking and lower hourly charges
  • Volunteer ‘Town Rangers’ to keep town centres safe
  • Allow night time deliveries to encourage bigger stores back to the high street
  • Encourage landlords to make better use of empty premises

Do you think Mary Portas’ plan to save the high street will work? How will consumers and business owners will react? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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