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  6. Government's 'Portas Plus' response to High Street proposals

Government's 'Portas Plus' response to High Street proposals

The Coalition has accepted virtually all the recommendations put forward by Mary Portas last December from her High Street Review and put in place a new support package to further boost the High Street.

Ministers, however, have decided not to support her proposal that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government should have an “exceptional sign off” for all new out-of-town developments or the requirement that all large new developments should have an “affordable shops” quota.

The Government argued that such ministerial intervention was unnecessary in the light of the new emphasis on local responsibility and community decision-making. ”We will continue to use the call-in power sparingly,” said the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The Government said it supported affordability but argued that to require an “affordability quota” in every large development would “increase” the adverse impact of that development on town centres.

 The administration has also signalled that the review’s calls for changes to the Use Class system to make change of use easier and to create a separate use class for betting shops will be considered as part of DCLG’s ongoing assessment of the whole use classes regime. The department said it would be consulting on its latest thinking shortly.

In addition, the Government has decided that to encourage more people to live in town centres, planning permission will not be required in the case of up to two flat conversions in the space above shops. At present the regulations only allow one flat as permitted development.

At the same as publishing its formal response to the Portas Review the Government has announced a number of initiatives.

Housing and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said a new package of help had been agreed to help High Streets and town centres.

The measures included:

  • a multi-million pound High Street Innovation Fund - kick started by £10m of taxpayers’ money focused on bringing empty shops back into use
  • a £1m Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded in a year's time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets
  • a National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play
  • a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help Town Centres access loans for their set-up costs
  • the launch of a further round of Portas Pilots, to trial some of the Portas recommendations and come up with new ideas to breathe life into underused high streets. This is in response to the interest from hundreds of locations across the country, sparked by the competition for the first wave of 12 pilots launched last month.

The Minister said: "Mary Portas's review made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face. With internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, they must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back.

"Her report has provided the catalyst for change that many towns have been craving. I now want to see people coming together to form their own town teams and turning their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future."

Read the DCLG news release.

Roger Milne

4 April 2012