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Government says ‘yes’ to Portas – and adds ‘Portas Plus’ package…

By • Mar 30th, 2012 • Category: News

…but why £10m to councils when Portas Pilots will only get £1m?

30.03.2012 The Government says it is accepting “virtually all” of the recommendations made by Mary Portas in her high street review last December – and “intends to go further” with new incentives to rejuvenate the country’s rundown high streets. In a response on behalf of Action for Market Towns, chief executive Chris Wade welcomed many of the measures and said “living town centres – not just high street shopping – should be at the heart of our communities.”

But Chris expressed reservations about how the new £10m ‘High Street Innovation Fund’ has been allocated: “when several hundred genuinely town-led partnerships have submitted creative, innovative Portas Pilot ideas and only 12 will be successful, disappointed bidders will want to know how the Government has chosen who will benefit from this new Innovation Fund – and why the fund is for local authorities, not town partnerships.”

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said a new “Portas Plus” package would include:

  • A £10 million pound High Street Innovation Fund focused on bringing empty shops and high street properties back into use;
  • A £1 million Future High Street X-Fund to be awarded in a year’s time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets;
  • A National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play, help aspiring entrepreneurs try out their business ideas, and encourage more visitors to town centres;
  • A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help Town Centres access loans for their set-up costs; and
  • Launching a further round of Portas Pilots in response to the massive interest from hundreds of locations across the country, sparked by the competition for the first wave of 12 pilots launched last month.

Grant 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.

“Her report has provided the catalyst for change that many towns have been craving. I now want to see people coming together to form their own town teams and turning their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future.”

Chris Wade, chief executive of Action for Market Towns, said:

“Living town centres – not just high street shopping – should be at the heart of our communities. For high streets to fight back against decline it’s essential for them to evolve to become multifunctional centres. And it was essential for the Government to accept the recommendations of the Portas Review to help troubled high streets recover. I’m pleased to see that many of the evidence-based ideas we submitted to the Portas review and which were recommended by Mary Portas in her report have been accepted by the Government.

“The positive effect that Town Teams can make echo AMT’s evidence after helping to establish and support many town partnerships.

“With such enormous interest in the Portas Pilot scheme – at least 350 towns have submitted applications for the 12 Pilots available – we are pleased that the Government is launching a further round of the scheme. But when when several hundred genuinely town-lead partnerships have submitted creative, innovative Portas Pilot ideas and only 12 will be successful, disappointed bidders will want to know how the Government has chosen who will benefit from this new Innovation Fund – and why the fund is for local authorities, not town partnerships.

“Earlier this week the Government strengthened the Town Centres First Policy to level the playing field between town centres and out of town shopping centres. Alongside the Portas response this marks a significant platform from which small towns and high streets can build their recovery.

“AMT has always been realistic about the challenges faced by many town centres and high streets – but ambitious that with the right kind of support they could match the successes that other enterprising small towns are still achieving . This response is an encouraging start. We look forward to continuing to support town partnerships and town teams that want to find creative solutions to building multifunctional town centres.”

What next

  • Read AMT’s detailed analysis of the Government’s Portas response (members only)
  • Chris Wade, AMT’s Chief Executive, is available for interview. Contact news@towns.org.uk or 07904 272 200
  • The the 12 initial Portas Pilot winners will be announced in May
  • High streets at the heart of our communities: the Government’s Response to the Mary Portas Review has been published today and can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/regeneration/portasreviewresponse.
  • New data showing significant decrease in high street footfalls and rents was published this week by AMT and is available here
  • The Portas Review: An independent review into the future of our High Streets was published on 13 December 2011 and can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/regeneration/portasreview.
  • AMT’s Response to the Portas Review is here
  • The “Love Your Local Market” event will take place on June 23 2012, designed to encourage more people to visit the high street and see what is on offer.
  • A list of the authorities to which £10 million High Street Innovation Fund Grant is to be paid can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/documents/regeneration/pdf/2120116.pdf (PDF, 41kb).
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is Jamie is Towns Alive's Communications and External Affairs Manager and works for Towns Alive for 1 day per week looking after press, external affairs, website content, social media, marketing, some events and some membership support. A freelance consultant to charities, social enterprises and small businesses, Jamie co-founded and was managing director of the respected 'New Start magazine' (now owned by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies) and has worked in a PLC. Jamie lives in Sheffield, is an active rock climber and mountain biker, and is a volunteer board member for a local social enterprise.
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