Mary Portas High Street Review: Our View

Today saw the long awaited Portas Review published, showcasing the results of her research and High Street review.  The team followed the progress from summary reports released the previous weekend, as well as the #Portas Twitter feed during the day, capturing the industry’s responses. There weren’t any genuine surprises in the report, yet the industry has given a mixed reaction to the proposals.

The majority of industry critique was aimed at the restrictive polices towards out of town retail. On first reading, Portas’ suggestion of introducing Secretary of State ‘exceptional sign off’ for out-of-town development certainly seems counter productive, especially while the Government is trying to free up planning restrictions to promote economic growth, but many commented that this was unlikely to ever see the light of day.

Furthermore, the proposals to enforce all Councils to offer ‘free controlled parking schemes’ and give business rates concessions for new local business show a degree of naivety of Britain’s true economic situation and local councils shrinking budgets. We understand that elements of this section were watered down in the closing week of the report, and this has been welcomed.

In contrast, there were several positives highlighted; easing changes of use-class in the high street would encourage successful uses such as more restaurants and cafes – meaning high streets can offering unique points of difference to shopping centres and parks. There was an element of deja-vu with the suggestion of improved Business Districts and Town Teams – echoing the moves towards Town Centre Partnerships from the 90’s.

Overall, we do believe Portas has delivered a well researched and considered review of what is a nebulous subject, and takes the views of numerous industry and consumer bodies into account. Market forces have got us to where we are today – so perhaps more focus on what made some successful and others fail should be the result. Quite the opposite from what many in the industry expected when she first appointed by David Cameron earlier this year.

The full report can be found here:

Andrew Todd, Account Executive

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