Mary Portas unveils commercial landlord vision

by Daniel Jones

Owners of retail properties should be given disincentives for leaving sites empty to encourage them to sign more shop lease agreements.

This is just one recommendation contained in a government-commissioned report from retail expert Mary Portas, who wants to reinvigorate the nation's high streets.

She says town centres should be run like businesses, arguing that strengthening the management of high streets could be achieved through new "Town Teams", developing the Business Improvement District model and encouraging new markets.

The Queen of Shops also suggests a reappraisal of the business rate system should be carried out to see how it could better support small firms. Affordable town centre car parking should be encouraged, she adds.

"I hope that my recommendations can be a catalyst for change but high streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again," says Ms Portas, whose suggestions could spark a rise in high street shop lease agreements.

She adds: "Local authorities, landlords, retailers and the public need to work together to really animate the spaces they occupy; re-imagined as destinations for retail, socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning."

Prime minister David Cameron said he was "delighted" at the "clear vision" set out by the retail expert. "The government will now review Mary's recommendations and we will publish our response next spring," he added.

The report has been welcomed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which said Ms Portas has got the "key concerns" of the industry right.

In particular, the BRC said the issue of car parking is "vital". Director-general Stephen Robertson explained that the organisation backs free controlled parking schemes as well as the idea of a new parking costs league table.

He added that the impact of business rate bills on existing retailers is "massive", and welcome the proposals to reassess their effect on high street shops.


Published on: December 14, 2011

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