In a speech to the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) annual conference yesterday Portas expressed concerns about the government's commitment to the policy of protecting town and city centres from out-to-town developments saying it was just a "PR exercise".
Earlier in the year Portas published a review of how the UK’s town centres could be revived in the face of the out-of-town and online shopping challenge [see earlier story].
The government subsequently agreed to implement practically all of her recommendations including a stronger town centre first policy. But at the conference she reiterated that the planning system was inadequate in relation to out-of-town retail developments saying it is a “massive issue” that “needs addressing”. She described the growth of out-of-town supermarkets as "the single biggest" factor in the decline of high streets because it removed groceries and therefore needs-based trips from town centres.
She said, "Part of me sometimes thinks, is this a big PR thing by the government or is this truly believing in town centre first? I really have to question this”.
Portas also said she was "worried" by last week's reshuffle and departure of former housing minister Grant Shapps, who has now become Tory party co-chairman, because he had been liaising with her on the implementation of the Portas Review. She is waiting to meet his replacement, Mark Prisk.
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