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John Hayes sees what Mary Portas’ vision for the future of high streets will mean for Leeds

Mary Portas published her review of the future of our high streets today, which sets out her vision to breathe economic and community life back…

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

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

John Hayes said:

“Leeds City centre is exactly the sort of area that we were thinking of when the Prime Minister asked Mary to launch her review. Mary’s review has set out a number of recommendations that could make a real difference to areas like Leeds and the Government is already looking at what it can do to make these recommendations a reality.”

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; and

  • 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, wellbeing, creativity and learning.”

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 that over the last decade out of town retail floorspace has risen by 30% while in town has shrunk by 14%.

The Government will respond to the recommendations in the spring.

Notes to editors

1) The Portas Review is available here: http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/business-sectors/retail/high-street-review.

2) The Government commissioned research ‘Understanding High Street Performance’ is published alongside Mary Portas’ report and is available on the BIS website.

3) BIS’s online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See http://www.bis.gov.uk/newsroom for more information.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone

Fax

Mobile

Email NDS.BIS@coi.gsi.gov.uk

Name Lucy-Michael Sutton Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 5977 Fax

Mobile

Email lucymichael.sutton@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Published 13 December 2011