Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk today (7 February 2013) issued a warning to high streets across the country that they need to adapt to meet the changing needs of today’s consumers if they are to prosper.
Speaking to the 27 Portas Pilots in Loughborough, the minister said the high street cannot live in the past, but must adapt to meet the radical changes in consumer behaviour seen over the past few years.
Mr Prisk has established a new national Future High Streets Forum, bringing together leaders across retail, property and business to better understand the competition town centres across the country face and to drive forward new ideas and policies, building on the work of the Portas review of the future of the high street.
In particular, it will advise the country’s 27 Portas Pilots and 330 ‘Town Team Partners’ on how to adapt to a new era of online shopping and the changing way in which consumers shop.
The Future High Streets Forum will advise the government on the challenges facing high streets and help develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt and change. It will look at issues including:
- promoting parking solutions and good practice to help high streets attract more visitors
- making it easier for redundant empty spaces to be used as pop-up shops to bring new business onto the high street
- allowing commercial landlords to turn part of their building into a residential property to bring more people into town centres
- reinforcing the ‘town centre first’ planning rules
- rolling out pop-up shops across the 330 Town Team Partner high streets
Mark Prisk said:
“It is clear that our high streets will need to change to prosper. There is already great work being done across the country to revitalise the town centres, but it needs to spread further faster. The Future High Streets Forum will help us do that.
“The forum will bring business, councils, retailers and property experts to work together and back communities to rejuvenate our high streets.”
The forum will be co-chaired by Mark Prisk and Alex Gourlay, Chief Executive, Health & Beauty Division, Alliance Boots, and will draw on the expertise of experienced members of the retail industry, academics and trade organisations. Members include representatives from:
- John Lewis
- the British Retail Consortium
- the British Property Federation
- the British Council of Shopping Centres
- the Association of Town & City Management
- the Association of Convenience Stores
Alex Gourlay Chief Executive, Health & Beauty Division, Alliance Boots, added:
“Boots UK strongly supports the pursuit of creating healthy and prosperous high streets which can be essential, if not the most critical, ingredient in supporting the regeneration of local communities. High streets are vital for the health of our communities, providing services and support that are accessible and within easy walking distance for many people. From speaking to our customers, we know that the survival of the high street is very important to them. I am proud to be co-chairing The Future High Streets Forum, to work with others also committed to the future of our high streets and ensuring their growth and success in years to come.”
The forum builds on the work of the 27 Portas Pilots and 330 Town Team Partners across the country, which are taking forward recommendations from the Portas review of the future of the high street.
A multi-million pound strategy is backing local partnerships such as the 27 Portas Pilots and over 330 Town Teams to breathe new life into their town centres. This includes mentoring from retail experts and workshops to address town centre challenges.
Ministers are changing planning restrictions so that landlords can alter how an empty shop is used for up to 2 years. These steps will make it easier for start-up businesses to set up in the high street.
PopUp Britain has set up a pop-up shop in the Department for Communities and Local Government office building in London to showcase how a small underused space can support start-ups, encourage footfall and re-energise an area. Local areas are being encouraged to follow suit and helped with an online practical toolkit and pop-up lease PopUp Britain.
The government is making it easier to convert empty offices into residential use, which can boost town centres by increasing the resident population and local footfall.
Further measures available to help revitalise the high street include:
- a £1 million Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded to areas with the most creative and effective schemes to rejuvenate their town centres, closed in December and the winners will be announced in March
- a National Markets Fortnight (15 to 29 May) to celebrate the role markets can play and offer budding entrepreneurs the chance to test their business ideas
- a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs
- doubling small business rate relief for 3 and a half years to help small shops, and making it easier for small firms to claim small business rate relief through the Localism Act; over half a million businesses in England are expected to benefit, with about a third of a million of businesses paying no rates
You can read the government’s response to the Portas Review.