Future High Streets Forum Set Up

Queensmead, FarnboroughTo further the government policy of improving high streets and town centres, the Future High Streets Forum has been set up by Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk.

Speaking at an event in Loughborough last week, Mark Prisk announced the forum as he addressed the representatives of 27 "Portas Pilots", a selection of town centres and high streets that will be rejuvenated following the recommendations of the Portas Review.

The Portas Review, commissioned by the government and conducted by retail guru Mary Portas, highlighted a number of issues with modern town centres and suggested positive actions to remedy the recent decline in high street footfall and sales.

Some of the recommendations of the Portas Review include fixing costly parking, stabilising business rates, creating disincentives for landlords who leave properties empty and the formation of "town teams".

Prisk sounded out a warning to his audience saying that high streets needed to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of modern consumers if they were to survive and profit.

The Future High Streets Forum, to be co-chaired by Mark Prisk and the CEO of the Health & Beauty division of Allied Boots, will liaise with the Government on the issues facing the UK’s high streets and help develop policies.

Other members of the Forum will include representatives from The John Lewis Partnership, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the British Property Federation, the British Council of Shopping Centres, the Association of Town & City Management and the Association of Convenience Stores.

As with the Ports Review, the Forum will be dealing with issues such as:

  • Promoting best practice in car parking so that Britain’s high streets can attract more visitors
  • Making it easier to use empty retail units for pop-up shops so that new businesses can attract new customers to the high street
  • Promoting and reinforcing the "town centre first" planning rules to ensure out of town developments are not prioritised
  • Making it easier for empty commercial properties to be turned into residential property to bring in more people to town centres

Mark Prisk said of the new Future High Streets Forum:

“It is clear that our high streets will need to change to prosper. There is already great work being done across the country to revitalise the town centres, but it needs to spread further faster. The Future High Streets Forum will help us do that.

“The forum will bring business, councils, retailers and property experts to work together and back communities to rejuvenate our high streets.”

Emma Jones, the co-founder of StartUp Britain and PopUp Britain, will be representing the interests of small businesses on the Forum and she said:

“High streets are in trouble but there are record numbers of small businesses out there who would love to get a toe hold on the high street. We need to be more creative around our high streets to allow them to reflect what’s happening in the business world.”

Robert Downes, policy advisor at the Forum of Private Business (FPB), went further with being more supportive of the small business sector, saying:

“What we really need is for authorities to be given new planning powers allowing them to refuse applications by supermarkets if it’s likely they will prove detrimental to other businesses already there. Under present laws council planners can only decide an application purely on planning grounds and nothing else.”

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