HIGH street guru Mary Portas included Rotherham in her list of success stories

HIGH street guru Mary Portas has highlighted the revival of Rotherham town centre as “one of the best case studies I know”.

In a new essay titled Why Our High Streets Still Matter, the self-styled Queen of Shops noted the transformation of High Street, the opening of the new Makers’ Emporium and the expansion of the Whistle Stop Sweet Shop and Temperance Bar as some of the town’s strengths.

While attacking the Government for failing to do enough to support high streets, Mary included Rotherham in her list of success stories, saying it was an example of “collaboration at its finest”.

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She said the town benefited from “an inspired and talented town team, an enlightened and committed local authority, a busy and ambitious local college and a very supportive landowner in British Land”.

Mary noted that footfall had increased three years in a row while vacancy rates had dropped from 20 per cent to 14 per cent in the same period.

A survey found 92 per cent of shoppers were satisfied or very satisfied with the range of independent shops, compared to 42 per cent in 2009.

She added: “And what about this for a whopping difference — 35 per cent of shoppers said that the main reason for visiting is that Rotherham had a good range of shops they liked compared to only two per cent who said this in 2009.”

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But the retail expert said more could be done to help shops, criticising the UK’s business rates system and saying a business rates reduction of £1,000 on all units with a rateable value of £50,000 would benefit 869 businesses in Rotherham.

Mary visited Rotherham with communities minister Brandon Lewis in April and was one of the first customers at new craft showroom The Makers Emporium, an artisans outlet which sells clothes, jewellery and homeware by 30 Rotherham-based craftsmen.