Report From Civic Voice
Building on from the National Planning Policy Framework which recognises the importance of putting “town centres first” in planning decisions, the Government has today issued its response to the Mary Portas High Street Review.
In May 2011, The Prime Minister commissioned retail expert Mary Portas to conduct an independent review of the high street’s future. The Portas Review set out what Mary Portas thought had led to the decline of the high street and made 28 recommendations about what could be done to breathe life back into them.
You can read the original “Portas Review” here
The Government’s response is available here
A summary of the measures that will interest civic groups include:
- The Government want to see high streets become the “beating heart of the community“, offering more than just retail with entertainment venues and leisure facilities, as well as housing and local public services.
- 100 areas have benefits from a new High Street Innovation Fund valued at £10m) focusing on bringing empty shops back into use (read the list hereto see if your area is selected)
- A new National Markets Day to celebrate the role markets can play, help aspiring entrepreneurs try out their business ideas, and encourage more visitors to town centres; – interestingly this falls on the same date as National Civic Day (June 23rd!)
- Allowing the conversion of space above shops to two flats, without the need for planning permission, rather than the current limit of one
- Recognition that free car parking can have a big impact on a town centre so giving local areas free to implement controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and in particular “local authorities should set appropriate parking charges that do not undermine the vitality of town centres”
- The Government would like to see hundreds of Town Teams– made up of key players in the local area including the council, local landlords, business owners, and local MPs (although no direct mention of communities). Civic groups should campaign to join these teams.
- The Government have said Town Teams should actively promote good design in improving the high street, the evening and night time economy, and the quality of life in general.
- The Government will run a high profile campaign to get people involved in the development of High Street Neighbourhood Plans
- In a success for our Street Pride campaign, the Government say “towns should remove street clutter to make them more pleasant for visitors“
- The Government will launch a further round of Portas Pilot for towns to bid for £1million. There will be a second round of bidding in 2012/13, with a closing date of 30 June
- The Government rejected the recommendation for a clampdown on shopping centres outside towns in what many felt was the most far-reaching proposal in the Portas Review. The Government believe the changes in the NPPF will manage this through local plans.
Ian Harvey, Civic Voice said “Many civic groups across the country are involved in campaigns to revitalise their local high street. The Government’s response to the Portas Review lays down a challenge for local partners, including communities to re-imagine their town centres and high streets, ensuring they offer something new and different that neither out-of-town shopping centres nor the internet can match. We all have a role to play in making our high streets destinations in the future.