The Government recently launched a review on the future of high streets in order to identify what government, local authorities and businesses can do to promote the development of more prosperous and diverse high streets. Mary Portas looked at the case for developing town centres that contribute to promoting economic growth, creating jobs and improving quality of life in local areas.
Speaking at the Parliamentary debate on 17th January on the Future of Town Centres and High Streets, Stuart Andrew MP said:
“I welcome the Government’s review – it was long overdue. Let us face it, the problems of town centres are not a new thing: they have been occurring for some time. We need to create vibrant areas that are exciting to visit and in which social gatherings can be held.”
He also raised the issue of parking spaces in town centres saying:
“Parking is a big problem. Far, too often, in the towns that I represent, from early in the morning through to fairly late at night, commuters take up the parking spaces that would otherwise be available to shoppers.”
Several MPs took part in the debate supporting the Government’s initiative to hold the review. The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Grant Shapps MP also spoke out:
“We intend to provide a very energetic response to the Portas review. The high street provides a sense of community and well-being that I will wager could never be provided by the out-of-town stores.”
The Government’s Plan for Growth sets out a package of measures to support thriving town centres. This includes doubling small business rate relief for two years and making it easier for small firms to claim the relief; looking at giving councils new powers to levy local business rate discounts to support local shops, community pubs, new business parks or vital local facilities; providing new guidance to cut unnecessary street clutter that disfigures high streets; and removing the rules that forced up parking charges in town centres.