Queen of Shops delivers blueprint for future of High Streets like Rotherham's
The retail guru took a whistlestop tour of Rotherham town centre in September as part of a review commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron, dropping into several shops to talk to the town’s traders.
Aimed at slashing town-centre vacancy rates which have doubled over the past two years, Ms Portas’ report said that many high streets “are sickly, others are on the critical list and some are now dead.”
She highlighted parking charges and high business rates as handicaps to a thriving high street, and calls for the adoption of initiatives such as a National Market Day, dedicated Town Teams and greater restriction on out-of- town centre developments.
In a rallying call to town centre groups and councils, Ms Portas said: “I believe that our high streets are uniquely placed to deliver something new.
What do you think of Mary's blueprint?
“I believe that they can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community.
“My review sets out what I think has led to the decline of our high streets, my vision for the future and the key things I believe we need to put in place to deliver that vision.
“Importantly, I hope it will help to find and nurture tomorrow’s innovators and ideas that will create the new sustainable high streets of the future.
“The problems are complicated and sometimes overwhelming, but the task is not impossible—and I believe we can turn things around.”
Here are Mary’s recommendations:
- Put in place a “Town Team”: a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets. Empower successful Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become “Super-BIDs.”
- Legislate to allow landlords to become high street investors by
- contributing to their Business Improvement District.
- Establish a new “National Market Day” where budding shopkeepers can try their hand at operating a low-cost retail business.
- Make it easier for people to become market traders by removing unnecessary regulations so that anyone can trade on the high stree unless there is a valid reason why not.
- Government should consider whether business rates can better support small businesses and independent retailers.
- Local authorities should use their new discretionary powers to give business rate concessions to new local businesses.
- Make business rates work for business by reviewing the use of the RPI with a view to changing the calculation to CPI.
- Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and we should have a new parking league table.
- Town Teams should focus on making high streets accessible, attractive and safe.
- Government should include high street deregulation as part of their ongoing work on freeing up red tape.
- Address the restrictive aspects of the ‘Use Class’ system to make it easier to change the uses of key properties on the high street.
- Put betting shops into a separate ‘Use Class’ of their own.
- Make explicit a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework.
- Introduce Secretary of State “exceptional sign off ”for all new out-of-town developments and require all large new developments to have an “affordable shops” quota.
- Large retailers should support and mentor local businesses and independent retailers.
- Retailers should report on their support of local high streets in their annual report.
- Encourage a contract of care between landlords and their commercial tenants by promoting the leasing code and supporting the use of lease structures other than upward only rent reviews, especially for small businesses.
- Explore further disincentives to prevent landlords from leaving units vacant.
- Banks who own empty property on the high street should either administer these assets well or be required to sell them.
- Local authorities should make more proactive use of Compulsory Purchase Order powers to encourage the redevelopment of key high street retail space
- Empower local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent with new “Empty Shop Management Orders.”
- Introduce a public register of high street landlords.
- Run a high profile campaign to get people involved in Neighbourhood Plans.
- Promote the inclusion of the High Street in Neighbourhood Plans.
- Developers should make a financial contribution to ensure that the local community has a strong voice in the planning system.
- Support imaginative community use of empty properties through Community Right to Buy,
- Meanwhile Use and a new “Community Right to Try.”
- Run a number of High Street pilots to test proof of concept.