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Reactions to the government’s Portas report response

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The government announced today its official response to the high street recommendations made by Mary Portas last year, and though its aim to support high streets is widely welcomed some have questioned its methods.

Below are some of the reactions of retail, property and legal professionals to the proposed measures for revitalising the high street:

Tom Ironside, Director of Business for the British Retail Consortium, said: “There are some positives. We’re pleased there are no indications the Government is intent on undermining consumer choice by penalising other shopping locations but nor is there much support for town centres.

“It’s good to see extra funding to help Business Improvement Districts and to support councils in dealing with empty properties but this doesn’t address the core challenges. Bolder moves which could’ve made a significant difference are missing, particularly in the light of the extra £350 million retailers will have to find because of this year’s business rates rise.

“This was an opportunity to revitalise our town centres for the 21st century but is in danger of becoming just another report on a dusty shelf.”

Jonathan de Mello, Head of Retail Consultancy at property firm CBRE, said: “The government is right in stopping short of implementing Portas’ recommendation for out-of-town applications to be signed off at national level.

“Shopping malls such as Westfield are major investors and employers - the regeneration of White City and Stratford are testament to that - and it is clear that shoppers are voting with their feet if you look at the popularity of such covered, heated malls with all the main retail chains under one roof.”

“The locally-driven initiatives such as social enterprises and co-operatives backed by the government and Portas will perhaps result in more viable centres in some areas - such as London and the South East - but it equally needs to be recognised that some high streets are beyond saving.”

Andrew Shufflebotham, Head of Retail & Consumer at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, said: “The only reliefs mentioned are those for small businesses, yet we’ve seen over the last twelve months that business rates are already damaging the bigger retailers’ profitability, with Sunday’s rate hike set to hurt them even more.

“If this issue is not addressed then I doubt the other proposed changes will stem the tide of decline, especially as out of town shopping centres continue to invest in new facilities and online shopping becomes ever more sophisticated.”

James Lowman, CEO of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Mary Portas identified that you can’t have strong high streets if out of town retail parks are springing up at the alarming rate we are seeing now, with 80 per cent of new grocery development located out of town.

“Local shops and people who love their high street will feel let down if the Government fails to listen to Mary Portas on this issue.”

Published on Friday 30 March by Editorial Assistant

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