30 Mar 2012

Mary Portas high street recommendations accepted

The government accepts “virtually all” of Mary Portas’s recommendations about reviving Britain’s high streets but retailers say they are concerned her ambitions may not be matched by ministers.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and retail expert Mary Portas walk through a street market in Camden, London (Getty)

Ms Portas set out 28 recommendations in her December review commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron which warned that high streets could “disappear forever” without urgent action.

The government said it was accepting “the vast majority” of the report’s recommendations and “intended to go further” by offering extra funding and slashing bureaucracy.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said a “Portas Plus” plan would include a £10m High Street Innovation Fund to return empty shops to use, money awarded to locations delivering the most creative and effective revitalisation projects, and a National Markets Day to encourage entrepreneurs.

A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts will also be set up to help town centres access loans.

A National Markets Day would help aspiring entrepreneurs and encourage more visitors to town centres while a further round of “Portas Pilots” would follow 12 launched last month to trial some of her recommendations.

Mr Shapps said: “Today I’m accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas’s review but I’m also going that one step further, offering a ‘Portas Plus’ deal with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their high streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again.

“Mary Portas’s review made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face. With internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, they must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back.”

Read more: Can markets save Britain's high streets?

‘Doesn’t live up to bigger ambitions’

Ms Portas said: “When I published my review I was clear that this was an action plan for our high streets, not a document to gather dust on Whitehall shelves.

“I’m pleased that the response from Grant Shapps today is designed to build on this momentum and give local people the tools they need to turn their creative ideas into reality, along with extra money to bring empty shops back into use.

“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, but I do believe that today marks the first day of a fresh new approach, putting our high streets firmly back on the public and national agenda.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the government’s response included “positive steps” but “doesn’t live up to her bigger ambition to revitalise our high streets”.

BRC director of business Tom Ironside said: “We’re waiting for the government to share the full detail of its response since there is a difference between accepting recommendations and putting them into action.

“We were pleased with many of Mary Portas’s 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.”