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Mary Portas High street review

Mary Portas has published her long awaited high street review and it has been worth the wait. There are lots of positive recommendations for the civic
movement. Above all else the Portas Review recognises that high streets are about civic life and community and not just about shopping.

Introducing the review Mary Portas says:

“I believe that our high streets can be
lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and
trust to a community….once we invest in and create social capital in the heart
of our communities, the economic capital will follow.”

Recognising the immense public response to the Review its conclusions place a
strong emphasis on “giving communities a greater say”:

“….local people should have more of a say in
what they want from them. We are on the cusp of a new time, with the “localism”
agenda all about putting more power into the hands of the people. But we risk
this falling flat on its face if communities are not inspired and empowered….I
want to see everyone feeling like their voice can be heard – to sweep away the
apathy and create truly powerful new local involvement.”


The Portas Review makes 28 headline recommendations and picks up on a number
of the issues raised by civic societies with Civic Voice, including:

  • Rewording the National Planning Policy Framework to make explicit a
    presumption in favour of town centre development
  • Extra curbs on out-of-town development
  • Disincentives to keep buildings vacant
  • Giving more discretion over rate relief
  • Support for communities to get involved in neighbourhood planning
  • Specific planning controls over the change of use to betting shops

The Portas Review makes important recommendations encouraging a “Town Team”
approach to managing town centres which will involve the community, business,
the local authority and others. It also proposes a new “National Market Day” to
support a growth in local markets and, controversially, more free parking

Next steps – let us have your views

Many of the ideas contained in the Portas Review can be taken forward by
civic societies, businesses and local authorities now – why not get in touch
with your local council, chamber of commerce or business improvement district
and ask what it plans to do, or take action yourself. There are plenty of
examples of civic societies getting involved in our submission to the Portas
Review (see below).

The Government has promised to respond in the Spring to the recommendations
and we would welcome your views on the report so we can shape the response.
Please send these to

We will also be working with the organisations behind the influential 21st
century agora report (see here)
to influence the Government’s response. This recognises the following 10
principles – what do you think of them?

  1. The high street should be the hub of the community. That means it needs to
    be planned by the community.
  2. Civic, social and cultural activities, not big stores, are the anchors of
    our town centres. Encourage them.
  3. Real localism starts when people have space to test their ideas. Use empty
    shops and public areas to create that space.
  4. Local loyalty is about solidarity between people, not brands. Build markets
    around relationships and mutual benefit.
  5. Local food and products are not middle class fripperies. They help people
    build independent livelihoods and create worthwhile work, and create alternative
    food sources and supply chains.
  6. Every place is unique. That uniqueness is strengthened when ownership is
    local and money stays in the local economy.
  7. Places don’t look after themselves. They need to be animated, which means
    giving people opportunities to do what inspires them. Town teams should be
    animators, not office holders.
  8. Climate change, technology, demographics and austerity will change the way
    nearly all of us live. We need to use our high streets to build interdependence
    and resilience.
  9. Expecting multinational retailers to solve the problems of town centres is
    like expecting drug dealers to run rehab clinics. We should dare to be different
    and be ready to invest in local ideas.
  10. There is no going back to the high street of the past. We can use the ideas
    of the ‘21st century agora’ to start imagining the future.

Email group

If you want to stay in touch on high street and put your views into the
debate then we will be launching a new Civic Voice email group in January. This
is in response to demand from civic volunteers at our recent network events. You
will be able to sign up and hold email discussions with others who share your

Tell us know if you are interested in joining the new email group at

For further information