Thursday, 15 December 2011 21:59

High street revival plan praised

Written by  Ruralcity Media
High street revival plan praised

MARKET towns have praised a report calling for new life to be breathed back into Britain’s high streets.

The independent review by retail consultant Mary Portas calls for more support to create prosperous and diverse town centres.

Ms Portas said: "Our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community.

She added: "I fundamentally believe that once we invest in and create social capital in the heart of our communities, the economic capital will follow."

The full document can be read by clicking here.

It includes recommendations that aim to get town centres running like businesses and get the basics right to allow businesses to flourish.

The report calls for a level playing field that defines landlords' roles and responsibilities and gives communities a greater say.

The document was published alongside government-commissioned research (2.1Mb pdf) showing that one third of high streets are degenerating or failing.

It estimates that by 2014 less than 40% of retail spending will be on the high street, with in-town retail floorspace shrink by 14%.

The review was welcomed by national charity Action for Market Towns (AMT), which had submitted evidence both to the review team and to the government.

A detailed response by AMT to the review can be seen by clicking here.

AMT chief executive Chris Wade said he was delighted many of the charity's ideas had been included in Mary's recommendations.

"The report recognises the unique importance to communities of town centres – and the need to intervene and re-invent them for the 21st Century."

The rhetoric about learning from, rather than blaming, multiple retailers was realistic, said Mr Wade.

"We are pleased to read of the recommendation for a more level playing field through planning regulations – which AMT has long called on the government to adopt."

Mr Wade said it was good to see that the review's recommendations were very much in tune with AMT's recently published 21st Century Town Centres Report.

The call for towns to have a Town Team – a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team – echoed AMT's evidence, he said.

The report was realistic in recognising it would not hold back the tide in some failing high streets but it can stem the decline in those that are still thriving.

"It highlights issues and draws together existing good practice often published in previous reports," said Mr Wade.

But it remained to be seen whether the government, local authorities, retailers and communities pulled together to make these ideas work.

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