Mary Portas, the retail expert and TV star, has admitted that the Portas Pilots could “never truly succeed” without full Government action on her 28 recommendations to save the high street.
In an email to MP Clive Betts, the chair of the select committee for the Department for Communities and Local Government, retail expert Portas said: “No amount of money or energy can combat the fatal flaws in the system which I recommended Government address in late 2011; business rates, parking controls, building usage, empty properties, and out-of-town planning.”
The correspondence came after Portas’ appearance in Westminster last week, where the select committee grilled her about the extent of her involvement with the Government-backed Portas Review to rescue struggling high streets.
But she said that the Portas Pilots had made “some excellent progress”.
In the select committee session Portas was also asked about the television series she made off the back of the Portas Pilots, Mary: Queen of the High Street denying she was paid a £500,000 fee by Channel 4.
But in the follow up email to Betts she back-tracked and said she “misinterpreted” the question.
She confirmed she has a contract with Channel 4, covering two years and 20 episodes and is paid £500,000, but this is not solely linked to Mary: Queen of the High Streets, of which there were three episodes earlier this year.
She said: “Whilst it is fair to say I received money from Channel 4 for a period of time which covered a series on the high streets, I would wish to stress that this series was not detailed as part of my Channel 4 contract and could have been focused on a number of other issues.”
She clarified that the Portas Pilots existed before the commission of the series, which she said had “editorial independence and integrity”.
In the email, Portas again denied that her colleagues at her PR firm Yellowdoor had not tried to influence the Government’s decision regarding the choice of Portas Pilot towns.
In Parliament she said she had not seen emails relating to this issue, but in the letter she said she had since read the conversation, which, “simply reflected a former employee’s enthusiastic response to the hundreds of inspirational video Pilot applications”.
She added: “Any suggestion that I, or Yellowdoor, was involved in influencing the Government’s selection of Portas Pilot towns is categorically untrue.”
Retail Week revealed last week that the Department for Communities and Local Government select committee will launch an inquiry into the high street, following the session with Mary Portas.