Commons high street debate provides useful insight

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Commons high street debate provides useful insight

Yesterday, in a debate organised and led by Marcus Jones MP, Chairman of the All Party Town Centre Management Group, MP’s reviewed and critiqued Mary Portas’s High Street Review findings.

The debate was well attended and rumbled on with vigour for the full 6 hour allocated slot  – finishing at 10pm. During the debate, MP’s from both sides of the house, across the whole of the UK, argued the plight of their constituency’s high-streets, citing out of town shopping schemes, parking charges and online as retailers as predominant problems. While planning reforms, business rates, BIDs, town centre teams, and more varied tenant mixes were suggested as some of the solutions. But there was little consensus or clarity to come out of the debate about what direction and actions are required.

The most interesting input of the debate came from Minister for Local Government, Grant Shapps.

Grant Shapps has been tasked with leading the Government’s response to the Portas review.  So his points gave us some clues as to what we may expect to see in ‘Spring’ when the Government finally announces their formal response.   One significant point that he made was that the growth of out of town schemes was ‘here to stay’, so  the advantages of high streets, which includes the ability ‘to meet and communicate’, must be ‘played up’ . This suggests that the Government will not do anything to defer out of town development, and will legislate to encourage a more varied tennant mix on the high street. He also interestingly emphasised the need to lower parking charges and promote ‘town teams’ that involve all stakeholders including retailers.

Shapps told the Commons that ‘The Government like what she (Mary Portas) has said’. Now we all await to see what they formally have to say to save our high-streets.

Andrew Todd, Account Executive

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