High streets and town centres


Our high streets and town centres are facing serious challenges from out-of-town shopping centres and the growth of online and mobile retailing. Our high streets need to be social places with a vibrant evening economy and to offer something that neither shopping centres nor the internet can match.


Two years on from the Portas Review, this government has put in place a wide range of measures to help the high street, including funding 24 Portas Pilots and 330 town teams - seen here on this map and support from dedicated local experts to help the Portas Pilots and town teams adapt their high streets to changing consumer behaviour.

Support for local shops and high streets

In December 2013, as part of the government’s long-term economic plan, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles set out a billion pound package of support for the UK’s high streets. On 1 April 2014 the changes came into effect.

A central part of the high streets support plan is to create more jobs by backing British business and the measures in the package will make it easier for all the shops on Britain’s high streets to grow, expand and take people on.

Business rates

Changes to the business rates were announced as part of the Autumn Statement and came into effect on 1 April 2014.

The support for businesses includes:

  • a £1,000 discount in 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000 - including shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants (300,000 retail businesses are eligible)
  • capping the Retail Price Index (RPI) increase in bills to 2% in 2014 to 2015 - businesses were expecting a 3.2% rise
  • extending the doubling of the Small Business Rates Relief to April 2015
  • a reoccupation relief for 18 months with a 50% discount for new occupants of retail premises empty for a year or more
  • allowing businesses to pay their bills over 12 months (rather than 10), which will help every firm with their cashflow


Independent experts have warned that aggressive parking policies are harming local high streets and local shops. We have consulted on reining-in over-zealous parking enforcement practices, and announced a range of measures to be introduced by spring next year, including:

  • restricting the use of CCTV ‘spy cars’ to enforce parking (through the Deregulation Bill currently going through Parliament)
  • 10 minute ‘grace periods’ when parking on-street allowing additional parking time before a late penalty is imposed
  • allowing local people and businesses to demand a review of parking in their area
  • reforming operational parking guidance so it is less heavy handed with motorists

Local leadership

The government is committed to helping local authorities and businesses and those who work on the ground as they are best placed to know what could make their high street thrive. We’ve announced new support to help communities re-energise their high streets by community led-renewal and Business Improvement Districts. In March 2014, Brandon Lewis announced new powers for property owners in London which will give landlords a greater say in revitalising their high streets.

Review of Business Improvement Districts

As part of the Secretary of State’s town centre announcement in December 2013, a commitment was made to review Business Improvement Districts.

The review was undertaken in 2014 and the outcome of the review was published on 8 November. Following the review we intend to implement a number of changes, which include:

  • providing the opportunity for Business Improvement District bodies to run local authority services by adding them to the list of relevant bodies that can challenge to run services under the Right to Challenge
  • increasing involvement of Business Improvement District bodies in planning, by encouraging a bespoke approach to consultation
  • guidance to encourage local authorities to involve Business Improvement District contribution at planning committees on relevant applications and ensure their views are heard
  • setting out in Community Infrastructure Levy guidance the importance of local authorities working with Business Improvement District bodies when developing Community Infrastructure Levy charges and identifying appropriate infrastructure
  • increasing transparency for all Business Improvement District bodies to strengthen accountability and quality, for example by requiring they publish annual report and accounts

Supporting local markets

In 2012, we teamed up with the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) to set up the Love Your Local Market Campaign. The aim is to help new market traders starting up businesses, and celebrate and promote our local markets.

The Love Your Local Market 2014 campaign was held from 14 to 28 May 2014 - read case studies about the event.


Planning restrictions have been lifted to help landlords make better use of their empty properties, either by allowing them to lease for shorter periods, helping start-up businesses to set up in the high street, or by making it easier to turn commercial properties into residential facilities to increase resident population and local footfall.

Changes to permitted development rights will offer town centres the flexibility they need to adapt existing buildings. The government will consult on permitting change of use from retail to restaurants, cinemas, gyms, skating rinks and swimming pools.


As part of the growth agenda, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister commissioned retail expert Mary Portas to conduct an independent review of the high street’s future.

The Portas Review: an independent review into the future of our high streets was published on 13 December 2011. It set out what Mary Portas thought had led to the decline of the high street and made 28 recommendations about what could be done – by government, local authorities and business – to breathe life back into them.

Who we’re working with

The Future High Streets Forum brings together leading businesses, academics and local leaders to look at the challenges facing our town centres and work with councils to build on what government has started.

In December 2013 Brandon Lewis announced an extension of the Future High Streets Forum to support and reflect the changing nature of high streets to include representatives from the hospitality, leisure, food and services sectors - all of which play a major role in the success of our high streets, providing local jobs and contributing billions to the UK economy

In January 2014 Argos, one of the UK’s leading retailers, announced it would join the Future High Streets Forum. and in April 2014, Simon Roberts, a managing director at Boots, was appointed as co-chair of the forum.

On 18 June 2014 a competition to find the nation’s best high streets was announced. Run by the Future High Streets Forum and the Association of Town and City Management, the competition was open for entries throughout the summer. The winners were announced on 8 November 2014.

Members of the forum are also working with the department to support Portas Pilots and Town Teams and the Love Your Local Market campaign.