Mary Portas has told MPs her review of the high street will be about “making life easier for town centres and tougher for out-of-town.”
Speaking at a packed meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on town centres this morning, Portas said her review will aim to create a more level playing field where supermarkets will want to open their new stores in town centres rather than out of town.
“I want to get supermarkets back into town centres,” she said, saying that restrictions on deliveries and business rates on parking made in town sites less attractive to the big grocers. “Justin King said to me ‘you make it easier for me and I will come back in’”.
While her review is not due for completion until the end of next month, Portas gave several pointers towards the recommendations she is likely to make. These will include offering the same 80% business rate relief offered to charity shops to start-up retail businesses, at the same time capping the number of charity shops allowed on individual high streets.
She said she would also like local councils to acquire derelict shops in order to faciliatate their redevelopment and re-opening, and also stressed the role alternative uses such as museums, galleries and leisure, as well as converting vacant shops back to residential use, could play. She said new concepts need to be invented, suggesting libraries could be incorporated into coffee shops and called Starbooks.