Portas plans get go-ahead
The government has pledged to accept virtually all of the 28 recommendations put forward by Mary Portas in its bid to revive the UKs high streets.
Portas set out the recommendations in a review to government in December which warned that high streets could "disappear forever" without urgent action.
The government said it is accepting "the vast majority" of the report's recommendations and will offer extra funding for additional initiatives.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said a new "Portas Plus" plan will include a £10 million innovation fund to return empty shops to use and a National Markets Day to encourage entrepreneurs and attract more visitors to town centres. In addition, the government will establish a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts to help town centres access loans.
Shapps said: "Today I'm accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas's review but I'm also going that one step further, offering a 'Portas Plus' deal with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their high streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again.
"Mary Portas's review made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face. With internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, they must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back."
The government has also announced that it will launch a further round of "Portas Pilots" and has committed to consulting on the abolition of centrally set minimum parking charges.
However, the British Retail Consortium has criticised the government for a lack of ambition in its response to the proposals. Tom Ironside, BRC director of business said: "We're waiting for the Government to share the full detail of its response since there is a difference between accepting recommendations and putting them into action. We were pleased with many of Mary Portas' findings, which set out a bold vision for the future of the high street, but we're concerned the Government hasn't yet matched her level of ambition with its response."
Helen Dickinson, head of UK retail at KPMG added: "All this focus and activity may well provide short-term fixes to some of the current challenges facing UK High Streets. However, it fails to address the long-term social changes in shopping and leisure activity, which have got us to where we are today. Tackling these long-term structural changes is more difficult, but is crucial to securing the future of the High Street.
"Given the scale of the challenges facing the modern high street, the increased financial commitments will still hardly scratch the surface. However, the focus and profile of the scheme has certainly sparked the imagination of local retailers and communities which is of value in itself."
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