Mary Portas has questioned the Government’s commitment to the high street and town centre improvement proposals she has set out.
The Government enlisted the help of self-styled ‘queen of shops’ Portas last year to investigate the UK’s ailing high streets. She came up with a 28-point improvement plan and a raft of locations were subsequently designated Portas Pilot towns.
But speaking at the BCSC Conference in Liverpool this afternoon, Portas questioned the Government’s commitment to the pilots and said that she does not speak with Whitehall regularly.
The Government accepted 27 of her recommendations but not her call for a Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to personally sign off out-of-town developments in order to prevent the over-expansion of retail parks and large supermarkets.
She asked whether the Government is really putting town centres first. “I question if this is a PR stunt,” she said. “Are they genuinely putting town centres first?”
Portas added that the Government must act on issues such as car parking and cut red tape if it is to tackle the health of high streets seriously. However she did not think saving the high streets was a “major priority” for the Government.
She maintained however that her own TV show, which will feature improvement efforts being made in Portas Pilots, was “not a PR stunt” but designed instead to draw attention to the issue.
Portas said local councils need to better understand the new vision for high streets and “the emotional and social needs” of the consumer.
“I hope the Portas Pilot towns will give inspiration,” she said.