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Friday, 30 March 2012

Portas-Plus Remedy for Reviving the High Street

The government has today published its formal response to the Portas Review of Britain’s high streets undertaken by Mary Portas last December, which it is calling “Portas-Plus”.

Here's a link to the full document – High Streets at the Heart of our Communities.

A new package of help has been drawn up including:

·         A multi-million pound High Street Innovation Fund - kick started by £10 million of taxpayers money focussed on bringing empty shops back into use - which, if supplemented by both councils and landlords, could see £30 million going to support new business start-ups whilst bringing empty High Street properties back into use;

·         A £1 million Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded in a year's time to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets;

·         A National Markets Day, launching a National Markets Fortnight, to celebrate the role markets can play, help aspiring entrepreneurs try out their business ideas, and encourage more visitors to town centres;

·         A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help Town Centres access loans for their set-up costs; and

·         Launching a further round of Portas Pilots, to trial some of Mary's recommendations and come up with new ideas to breathe life into underused high streets.

The government agrees with the Portas recommendation to promote more widely the Commercial Lease Code, in particular supporting the use of lease structures other than upward only rent reviews, especially for small businesses.

Liz Peace of the British Property Federation, which welcomes the government’s response said:

“We also look forward to progressing the recommendation on promoting the lease code. This presents a great opportunity, not only to promote responsible leasing, but also to bring to greater prominence what our industry does, which is to make space for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. I am particularly grateful to have Rightmove on board, who can provide a new way for us to get lease code information to that small end of the market that is always so difficult to crack.”

Many will also welcome the government’s promise to review the use of the Retail Prices Index as the basis for calculating business rates.

The government does not agree with some of the more punitive measures suggested by Portas to bring empty properties back into use, such as empty shop management orders.

Nor are there any proposals to deal with the problem of empty rates, although the government does want to encourage local authorities to use their powers to offer rates rebates.

The government has rejected Portas' call for a secretary of state sign off for out-of-town developments to help protect local high streets.

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