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Drapers Debate: Will the new high street taskforce yield answers?

An industry taskforce is to conduct a widespread review of UK towns and cities to establish ways of rejuvenating the high street. Drapers Debates asks whether any good will come of it.

 No – Victoria Gallagher

Victoria Gallagher

“So this is a review of a review” questioned one of the commentators on our website and I can’t help but agree.

How many times are government bodies and industry figures going to keep going over the same old ground, conducting research about issues that need action now, not a year down the line after months of reviews?

Our town centres need urgent attention before it’s too late - this review will only delay that help further still.

We all waited months for the Mary Portas review to be published and then further months for the government’s response. Although not all of the issues high street retailers are struggling with will be fully dealt with by those recommendations, it is a start to solving the problems faced up and down the UK and with a degree of common sense can be adapted to individual circumstances.

Property is naturally a contentious topic that needs to be examined carefully, but again these issues will differ from town to town. A nationwide review will only stall proceedings in kicking high streets back to life.

Thisis a case of too little too late. The recession hit in 2008, yet almost five years later we are still conducting reviews into what can be done to save the high street. If we don’t act soon there will be nothing left to save.

Yes – Ruth Faulkner

Ruth_Faulkner_for_web

A review of a review it may well be but reassessing the recommendations made by Mary Portas and the government’s subsequent response is necessary.

Senior figures from across banking, retail and property, including those from key retail trade associations will sit on the committee – people who by the very nature of their job roles are perfectly placed to comment on this subject.

Asking experts to reassess the barriers to growth in town centres from a property perspective is an inspired move that will ensure that the recommendations made are workable and, more importantly, make a visible difference.

Independents often bemoan the problem of high rents and the effect it has on their businesses, not to mention prohibitively high rents blocking the path for new businesses.

Of course it is not a good thing to stall the process and wait any longer than necessary in order breathe new life into our already struggling town centres, but there is no point proceeding with the recommendations made by Portas if they are simply not going to work. This review will ensure that the foundations put in place by the government, and the industry, genuinely future-proof our high streets.

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