TV’s Queen of Shops Mary Portas has published a detailed report on how to save Britain’s failing high streets.
A third of the nation’s town centres are “degenerating or failing”, according to Government research.
But can Huddersfield turn its fortunes around with some tips from the shopping guru – or is the town centre ultimately doomed?
There are already several empty units across the town.
In light of yesterday’s high-profile Government-commissioned report, the Examiner asked Kirklees Council for their views on the 28 proposals within the report, and whether they were thinking about implementing any of them.
The response was a brief statement from council leader Mehboob Khan who said: “Kirklees Council is working closely with the town centre partnership, local traders and all businesses to create a vibrant town centre that meets the needs of all the people who use it.
“We have been successful in bidding for money from the Government to improve parking, public transport and public space to make Huddersfield more attractive.”
Portas, presenter of the BBC programme Mary Queen Of Shops, has proposed 28 recommendations to breathe life back into the high street – but said it was too late to save every town centre.
Her ideas will now be studied in detail by the Department for Communities and Local Government and other Whitehall departments.
Among the most important, she said, were suggestions that town teams should be established – praising the system in France where senior officials protect town centres.
She also called for the removal of unnecessary regulations to make it easier for people to become market traders, cuts in business rates, and a parking league table so shoppers could see how their town compared on charges.
She said: “Our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community. Something which, as the recent riots clearly demonstrated, has been eroded and in some instances eradicated.
“I fundamentally believe that once we invest in and create social capital in the heart of our communities, the economic capital will follow.
“Those who see high streets purely in commercial terms need a reality check, because, without the engagement and collaboration of local people many high streets will die and retailers, landlords and local authorities alike will see their investment wasted.”
Her report said the way people shopped had changed “beyond recognition” forever, adding: “The phenomenal growth of online retailing, the rise of mobile retailing, the speed and sophistication of the major national and international retailers, the epic experiences offered by today’s new breed of shopping mall, combined with a crippling recession, have all conspired to change today’s retail landscape.”
See page two for more on the report and what Huddersfield traders made of it. Do you agree with their views?
The report by Portas was revealed alongside a new Government study which stated that by 2014, less than 40% of retail spending will be on the high street.
The research also found that over the past decade out-of-town retail floor space has increased by almost a third while in towns it has shrunk by 14%.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government would review the report and respond next spring.
ROGER FRANCE, Market Hardware
"The supermarkets offer everything under one roof with free parking.
"The council – not just Kirklees but all the councils in the country – have allowed supermarkets and shopping malls to encircle the towns.
"And it’s taking away the incentive of people to actively shop on the high street.
"Parking is certainly an issue. It’s asking too much for it to be free but it certainly should be made cheaper."
DAVINDER DEO, La-Roux
"Mary Portas’s ideas are good but it doesn’t take a genius to come up with them.
"What we want is more parking spaces and free parking in the town centre.
"In Queensgate they need proper heating in here and air conditioning – in summer it’s like a greenhouse and in winter it’s like a fridge.
"The empty shops need to look better because to shoppers walking around it looks like the market is closing."
MAHENDRANATH GOGINENI, Pye Tech Systems
"The facilities need to be improved in the market and organised better.
"They need to work on the ambience to get more people in here.
"They need a proper heating and air conditioning system because it’s too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
"In the winter people want to shop somewhere inside where it is warm."
MARK SMITH, Cowling’s fruit and vegetables
"The suggestions that Mary Portas has made are nothing but common sense.
"I think that the council is agreeing to too many out of town applications and it’s always to the big businesses because they offer to pay for roads and facilities.
"But it’s taking everything out of the town centre and now they are realising that it’s killing the town centre but it’s a case of too little too late."
JOGA SINGH DHALIWAL, Shoe Stop
"I think there should be free car parking – we businesses pay enough rates.
"Even if people stop for a minute outside they get a ticket and that means customers aren’t likely to come back.
"The business rates should come down too – we pay just the same if not more than some of the supermarkets."
See page three for a full list of the 28 short recommendations made in the report. What do you think of them?
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Portas Review’s 28 recommendations:
1. Put in place a "Town Team": a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets
2. Empower successful Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become "Super-BIDs"
3. Legislate to allow landlords to become high street investors by contributing to their Business Improvement District
4. Establish a new "National Market Day" where budding shopkeepers can try their hand at operating a low-cost retail business
5. Make it easier for people to become market traders by removing unnecessary regulations so that anyone can trade on the high street unless there is a valid reason why not
6. Government should consider whether business rates can better support small businesses and independent retailers
7. Local authorities should use their new discretionary powers to give business rate concessions to new local businesses
8. Make business rates work for business by reviewing the use of the RPI with a view to changing the calculation to CPI
9. Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres
10. Town Teams should focus on making high streets accessible, attractive and safe
11. Government should include high street deregulation as part of their ongoing work on freeing up red tape
12. Address the restrictive aspects of the ‘Use Class’ system to make it easier to change the uses of key properties on the high street
13. Put betting shops into a separate ‘Use Class’ of their own
14. Make explicit a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework
15. Introduce Secretary of State "exceptional sign off " for all new out-of-town developments and require all large new developments to have an "affordable shops" quota
16. Large retailers should support and mentor local businesses and independent retailers
17. Retailers should report on their support of local high streets in their annual report
18. Encourage a contract of care between landlords and their commercial tenants
19. Explore further disincentives to prevent landlords from leaving units vacant
20. Banks who own empty property on the high street should either administer these assets well or be required to sell them
21. Local authorities should make more proactive use of Compulsory Purchase Order powers to encourage the redevelopment of key high street retail space
22. Empower local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent with new "Empty Shop Management Orders"
23. Introduce a public register of high street landlords
24. Run a high profile campaign to get people involved in Neighbourhood Plans
25. Promote the inclusion of the High Street in Neighbourhood Plans
26. Developers should make a financial contribution to ensure that the local community has a strong voice in the planning system
27. Support imaginative community use of empty properties
28. Run a number of High Street Pilots to test proof of concept