Mary Portas has admitted frustration with the government and a sense that the future of the high streets is not a top priority during a select committee hearing today.
Portas, who was giving an update on her 2011 Portas Review and subsequent initiatives such as the Portas Pilots, acknowledged she had been politically “naive” when she started the process and that she wished “someone had held my hand when navigating politics because it’s a bit tough”.
And when asked what contact she had with the government, it emerged that it had been very limited since the initial activity.
Prime minister David Cameron had responded to a single letter she wrote to him around a year ago, saying the future of the high streets was “one of his top priorities” but when asked whether she believed this, Portas said she did not.
“I’m not sure how big [a priority] it is… I don’t think it’s one of his top priorities,” she said.
Meanwhile Eric Pickles, secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, had failed to respond to a letter she wrote to him six months ago.
Asked who in government she dealt with, Portas said she had been in recent contact only with housing and high streets minister Mark Prisk, who she updated on the Pilots last week.
More broadly, Portas said the process – and public scrutiny – had made her “weary”, but she ended on a positive note giving her prediction for a multi-functional high street that included food and leisure, teenagers consuming fashion in a “whole new way” such as upcycling or trading clothes with friends, and “co-created businesses” that come together to create retail destinations.
“That’s my dream and I think it can be achieved but will require support and guidance,” she said.