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Government responds to Portas Review

Published:  30 March, 2012

Shapps promises 'Portas-Plus' plan to revive ailing high streets

The government has issued its formal response to the Portas High Street Review. Communities & Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said the government accepted the vast majority of Portas’ recommendations - but added that he intends to go further with a raft of new incentives to rejuvenate the country's rundown high streets.
The 'Portas-Plus' response includes:
• £10m investment in a new High Street Innovation Fund focussed on bringing empty shops back into use.
• A £1m Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded in a year's time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets;
• A National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play, help aspiring entrepreneurs try out their business ideas, and encourage more visitors to town centres;
• A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs
• A further round of Portas Pilots, aiming to breathe life into underused high streets. Shapps said more than 100 towns had bid for the £83,000 prizes on offer in the first wave of 12 pilots launched last month.
Shapps said:
"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.
"Her report has provided the catalyst for change that many towns have been craving. I now want to see people coming together to form their own town teams and turning their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future."
Martin Blackwell, chief executive at the Association of Town Centre Management, welcomed the response’s focus on Town Teams and its renewed support for BIDs. "We all recognise that the high street in 10 or even five years will be radically different to that we see today,” he said. “This Government's approach, shown in the response to Mary's report, is giving local communities the opportunity to shape the future High Street they want to see in their town."
But the response from retailers was luke warm. The British Retail Consortium’s 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’ 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.
“There are some positives. We’re pleased there are no indications the government is intent on undermining consumer choice by penalising other shopping locations but nor is there much support for town centres. It’s good to see extra funding to help Business Improvement Districts and to support councils in dealing with empty properties but this doesn’t address the core challenges. Bolder moves which could’ve made a significant difference are missing, particularly in the light of the extra £350m retailers will have to find because of this year’s business rates rise.