‘Portas plus’ schemes to revive British high streets
The government has said it is adopting ‘virtually all’ of the suggestions to revive ailing British high streets which were put forward by retail guru Mary Portas in December, and will look at new incentives and funding schemes to help kickstart rundown high streets.
Portas was commissioned to conduct an independent review on the future of UK town centres and high street, and published a 28-point document, which she said would create the sustainable high streets of the future.
The government has formally responded, launching a £10m ‘High Street Innovation Kick’, to help bring empty shops back into use, a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help facilitate start-up loans, as well as a National Markets Day to help encourage more visitors to town centres and allow entrepreneurs to try business ideas.
Local government minister Grant Shapps said: “We want to make sure that this revolution on the high street of areas improving, continues into the future.”
He also announced that there were be a second round of ‘Portas Pilots’, in which struggling towns could have the opportunity to bid for a slice of a £1m pot to turn around their high streets. The initial competition was flooded with entries, and Shapps said he wanted to see more town teams formed to help drive change and address the varied problems facing the UK’s high streets.
Portas said that while the scheme would put high streets back on the agenda, she would have liked greater central intervention in the critical areas of parking, business rates, change of use for shops, and the sign-off of new out-of-town developments.
However, Shapps said that the government wold takes steps to ensure greater transparency on parking charges to introduce greater flexibility, and consult on abolishing centrally set parking charges, to give councils flexibility to levy lower penalty notices.
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