Mary Portas has called for a “shift to a new, multi-functional, social high street”.
Portas, whose seven-month review of the high street has been released today, said there needs to be a “fundamental shift to stop seeing our high streets as just shops”, by attracting alternatives such as gyms and art galleries as anchor tenants.
Portas is keen for government to review the usage system to allow planners to change the function of shops more easily and bring down business rates for new businesses.
She claimed that UK high streets are “in crisis” now that more than 50% of consumer spending is off the high street.
But she refrained from penalising out-of-town developments in favour of “a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework”.
Portas has gone through the framework “paragraph by paragraph” and written to Prime Minister David Cameron to make her recommendations. She will meet with Cameron today to discuss the findings of the high street review.
The reports key recommendations are to put in place ‘town teams’; implement free controlled parking schemes and give the secretary of state for the department of communities and local government “exceptional sign off” on all new out-of-town developments.
She said: “We need to level the playing field with out-of-town retail. The future is going to be about collaboration, communication and compromise. There’s a passion, and sometimes a desperation, to make high streets work.
“If my view for the high street seems a bit idealistic, then I say to the people who are purely thinking about the commercial aspect are the ones who need a reality check.”
Portas said a better relationship between landlords and tenants allowing more flexibility must be created.