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Mary Portas: high street’s future is in the mix

The Government’s high street guru Mary Portas has said a mix of independent and multiple retailers will be vital to creating the successful high streets of the future.

Speaking to Drapers on a tour of the town centre in Rotherham last week, Portas said creating a level playing field between in-town and out-of-town locations was key to ensuring the high street had a future so that big multiple retailers wanted to locate there instead of being out of town.

“Even if you take the loveliness of Marylebone High Street, at the heart of it it’s got a supermarket and then around it you have these small independents and a real mix,” she said.
While her report will not be complete until November and she is still evaluating evidence, Portas identified planning, parking charges and upward-only rents as three key issues which she will be highlighting when she submits her report to the Coalition.

On property, she said legislation is likely to be required to ensure landlords are more flexible when it comes to letting empty properties.

“I think it’s totally legislation that we’ll have to look at,” she says. “It will be part of my recommendations there’ll be something on that.

I don’t know exactly what it will be as yet. There are some who are being fair and this is not about knocking the landlords.”

She praised innovative measures in Rotherham, which has been hit hard by the nearby Meadowhall shopping centre. The council has introduced grants for new businesses setting up there, and a town centre loyalty card to encourage people to stay in the town.

“We have a really sophisticated infrastructure in the council that’s put town centre management in,” she said. “I don’t think you can do this without a vision and a management that leads it.”

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