Mary Portas and the Local Government Minister, Grant Shapps, have launched a competition to choose 12 towns to become “Portas Pilots”, with the winners benefiting from a share of £1million to help turn around their “unloved and unused” high streets.
The cash incentive is offered to those towns that come up with the best High Street blueprints in a move that fulfils the first and last recommendations of Mary Portas’ High Streets Review, commissioned by the Prime Minister and published before Christmas.
Grant Shapps said:
“Our high streets have faced stiff competition from Internet shopping, and out-of-town shopping centres – leaving them underused, unloved and under-valued. The Internet is not going to go away, and so for our high streets to survive they need to offer something new and exciting.
“So today I’m offering a golden ticket to 12 town centres across the country to become “Portas Pilots” – areas with the vision and enthusiasm to breathe new life into what should be the beating heart of their communities, and they will get Mary’s and my support as they try out the ideas in her recent review.”
Taking forward the first recommendation from Mary Portas’s review, the 12 successful localities will create Town Teams, made up of the key players in their local community – such as the council, local landlords, shopkeepers and the local MP.
These teams will then benefit from the backing of the Minister, Whitehall and Mary Portas herself as they take forward the recommendations from the review and in their area. They will also receive a share of £1million.
Grant Shapps added:
“I want to see how these Town Teams plan to try new things, experiment and ensure that their high streets and parades become destinations for local people want to be. But these pilots are just the start. We want to learn their lessons and help communities across the country breathe new life into their own towns. Launching this competition now is a signal of our understanding that there’s no time to waste in driving forward these important measures.”
Mr Shapps will give the full Government response to the review by the Spring.
Successful bidders will need to demonstrate how they have the energy, enthusiasm and vision to make a real difference to their town centres and make them the hubs of their communities.
Areas will need to demonstrate how they plan to breathe new life into their high streets and shopping parades, but not just in a staid application form – Mr Shapps would also like to see their pitches to become Portas Pilots in short YouTube clips.
For details on exactly how your town can bid, please visit – http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/regeneration/portaspilotsprospectus
We are looking for pilots areas with a transformational vision for their high street and the backing to make it a reality. The lead partner should be able to clearly articulate this vision and demonstrate strong support for it from the local community and a wide range of local partners. The bids will need to show:
- A mix of pilot areas from a variety of town centres and high streets including market towns, villages, large towns, new towns, coastal towns and suburban areas. We also want to ensure a good geographical spread, as well as areas with both high / low average income levels and high / low empty shop vacancy rates;
- Commitment: we are looking for bids to demonstrate maximum commitment to the town team approach.
- Potential for improvement: resources will be allocated on a value for money basis and therefore areas must be able to demonstrate their potential for improvement; and
- Innovation. Bidders are asked to provide an outline of what the key priorities for their pilot area will be. We are looking for the most innovative ideas and evidence of strong leadership that will have maximum impact and can be replicated elsewhere.
The recommendations of the Portas Review 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 councils using their new discretionary powers to give business rate concessions to new local businesses
The following list is a summary of my 28 recommendations:
1. Put in place a “Town Team”: a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets
2. Empower successful Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become “Super-BIDs”
3. Legislate to allow landlords to become high street investors by contributing to their Business Improvement District
4. Establish a new “National Market Day” where budding shopkeepers can try their hand at operating a low-cost retail business
5. Make it easier for people to become market traders by removing unnecessary regulations so that anyone can trade on the high street unless there is a valid reason why not
6. Government should consider whether business rates can better support small businesses and independent retailers
7. Local authorities should use their new discretionary powers to give business rate concessions to new local businesses
8. Make business rates work for business by reviewing the use of the RPI with a view to changing the calculation to CPI
9. Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and we should have a new parking league table
10. Town Teams should focus on making high streets accessible, attractive and safe
11. Government should include high street deregulation as part of their ongoing work on freeing up red tape
12. Address the restrictive aspects of the ‘Use Class’ system to make it easier to change the uses of key properties on the high street
13. Put betting shops into a separate ‘Use Class’ of their own
14. Make explicit a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework
15. 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
16. Large retailers should support and mentor local businesses and independent retailers
17. Retailers should report on their support of local high streets in their annual report
18. 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
19. Explore further disincentives to prevent landlords from leaving units vacant
20. Banks who own empty property on the high street should either administer these assets well or be required to sell them
21. Local authorities should make more proactive use of Compulsory Purchase Order powers to encourage the redevelopment of key high street retail space
22. Empower local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent with new “Empty Shop Management Orders”
23. Introduce a public register of high street landlords
24. Run a high profile campaign to get people involved in Neighbourhood Plans
25. Promote the inclusion of the High Street in Neighbourhood Plans
26. Developers should make a financial contribution to ensure that the local community has a strong voice in the planning system
27. Support imaginative community use of empty properties through Community Right to Buy, Meanwhile Use and a new “Community Right to Try”
28. Run a number of High Street Pilots to test proof of concept
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Illustrations by Dermot Flynn
I want to put the heart back into the centre of our High Streets, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning. Places that will develop and sustain new and existing markets and businesses. The new High Streets won’t just be about selling goods. The mix will include shops but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places. They should become places where we go to engage with other people in our communities, where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities.
High Streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in. High Streets of the future must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect.
My goal is to breathe economic and community life back into our High Streets and town centres. I want to see all our High Streets bustling with people, services, and jobs. They should be vibrant places that people choose to visit. They should be destinations. Anything less is a wasted opportunity.
Please read through my full report below, or click here for a summary of my 28 recommendations.
[gview file="http://www.maryportas.com/wp-content/uploads/The_Portas_Review.pdf" save="1" cache="0" force="1"]
I’d love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment below.
I’ve been utterly thrilled by the enthusiastic responses from all quarters – thank you so much for caring as much as I do about the future of our town centres and high streets. It’s been brilliant reading through so many different thoughts & stories about the high streets you live on and are passionate about. With a little help from my team, I’ve been keeping an eye on all your clever ideas, as well as your practical gripes!
In the meantime the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills are helping me conduct a broader survey, I’d love it if you could share your opinions with me here – http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SR5KNW5
Thanks again! Keep em coming!
In May this year, I was challenged by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to undertake an independent review on the Future of the High Street – to help ‘bring back the bustle’ to our town centres.
And with town centre vacany rates doubling over the last two years, the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker.
I am calling on business, local authorities and shoppers to contribute their ideas on how we can halt this decline in its tracks and create town centres that we can all be proud of.
If you’ve got something to say about the state of our high streets – be it an observation, insight, initiative or idea – please add your own contribution to the debate below.
Read my Telegraph article – ‘My job is to save our high streets‘
FUTURE OF THE HIGH STREET REPORT – UPDATE:
Thank you for the thousands of comments and opinions left here over the past few months. It is clear that the future of our high streets is a matter close to the hearts of many people. Mary is now in the final stages of writing her report and therefore we are no longer accepting comments/submissions. Please note that all comments made previously have been taken into consideration. Thanks again for your interest, and we look forward to sharing the report with you in the very near future.