The government has announced it has accepted "virtually all" 28 recommendations in the review of the UK High Street published by Mary Portas in December 2011.
These will include, in something of a throwback to the 1990s town centre management initiatives, the creation of dedicated "town teams" composed of a variety of vested interests to manage High Streets.
The Town Teams will be composed of council members, business owners, landlords and MPs who together will “drive change in retail, entertainment and leisure, as well as in housing and public services”.
As a direct result of the Portas review [see earlier story] the government intends to launch:
- a National Markets' Day to incentivise entrepreneurs to try out new ideas and encourage visitors to town centres
- a £1m Future High Street fund to be awarded in 2013 to towns that deliver the most effective rejuvenation schemes
- a High Street innovation fund with £10m of taxpayer money focused on bringing empty shops back to life
- a further £500,000 fund to help towns access loans
Grant Shapps, the Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, said, "I'm accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas's review, but I'm also going one step further, with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their High Streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again."
He also committed to change planning rules on flat conversions above shops and, perhaps more controversially, consult on abolishing centrally-set parking charges.
The government has rejected her call for a Secretary of State sign off all out-of-town developments to help protect local high streets but the recently published final draft of the national Planning Policy Framework goes some way to ensuring this.
The measures have been broadly welcomed by retail groups.
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