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Transport Minister sees what Mary Portas’ vision for the future of high streets will mean for Kettering

Transport Minister Mike Penning visited Kettering to see what Mary Portas' vision for the high street will mean for the area.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Mary Portas published her review of the future of our high streets today (13 December 2011), which sets out her vision to breathe economic and community life back into our high streets.

Mike Penning said:

In May this year the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister asked Mary to do an independent review of the future of the High Street. Mary’s review has set out a number of recommendations that she thinks could make a real difference to areas like Kettering.

The government welcomes this report and is grateful to Mary for the time and effort she has devoted to the review. The government will consider the recommendations carefully and respond in detail next spring.

The review makes ambitious recommendations on what can be done by government, local authorities and business to help high streets deliver something new.

The focus is on putting the heart back into the centre of our high streets, re-imagined as exciting social hubs for shopping, learning socialising and having fun.

In May, with town centre vacancy rates doubling in the space of two years, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister asked Mary to look into how we can create more prosperous and diverse high streets.

The review sets out Mary’s recommendations to free up the high street from constraint, to level the playing field, to mobilise landlords and communities, and to address the ongoing management of our town centres.

The recommendations aim to:

  • get town centres running like businesses: by strengthening the management of high streets through new ‘Town Teams’, developing the Business Improvement District model and encouraging new markets
  • get the basics right to allow businesses to flourish: by looking at how the business rate system could better support small businesses and independent retailers, encouraging affordable town centre car parking and looking at further opportunities to remove red tape on the high street
  • level the playing field: by ensuring a strong town centre first approach in planning and encouraging large retailers to show their support for high streets
  • define landlords’ roles and responsibilities: by looking at disincentives for landlords leaving properties vacant and empowering local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent
  • give communities a greater say: by greater inclusion of the high street in neighbourhood planning and encouraging innovative community uses of empty high street spaces

Mary also recommends that her suggestions are tried out in a number of high street pilots.

Mary Portas said:

I don’t want to live in a Britain that doesn’t care about community. And I believe that our high streets are a really important part of pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can.

Our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community. Something which, as the recent riots clearly demonstrated, has been eroded and in some instances eradicated.

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

Those who see high streets purely in commercial terms need a reality check, because, without the engagement and collaboration of local people many high streets will die and retailers, landlords and local authorities alike will see their investment wasted.

This review sets out what I think has led to the decline of our high streets, my vision of the future and the key things I believe we need to put in place to deliver that vision.

I hope that my recommendations can be a catalyst for change but high streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again.

Local authorities, landlords, retailers and the public work need to work together to really animate the spaces they occupy; re-imagined as destinations for retail, socialising, culture, health, well being, creativity and learning.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

The high street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.

I am delighted that Mary Portas has produced such a clear vision on how we can create vibrant and diverse town centres and breathe life back into our high streets.

The government will now review Mary’s recommendations and we will publish our response next spring.

The report is published alongside new government commissioned research, ‘Understanding High Street Performance’, which shows that: although some high streets continue to thrive, a third are degenerating or failing; by 2014 less than 40% of retail spending will be on the high street; and over the last decade out of town retail floorspace has risen by 30% while in town floorspace has shrunk by 14%.

The government will respond to the recommendations in the spring.

Further information

The government commissioned research Understanding High Street Performance is published alongside Mary Portas’ report

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Published 13 December 2011