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Government launches Portas Plus plans to rescue failing high streets

The Government has pledged almost £13m to save suffering high streets as it is this morning expected to accept the “vast majority” of recommendations made by the Portas Review.

The response comes after self-styled retail guru Mary Portas put forward 28 recommendations to Government in December. She was commissioned last year to help improve failing high streets following the effects of the difficult economy, low consumer confidence and shoppers buying online.

Housing minister Grant Shapps, who was allocated a town centre remit last year, said £12.8m of additional support from the Government - referred to as Portas Plus - will be invested to help turn around high streets to ensure they are “the beating heart of their community once again”.

Government will kickstart a High Street Innovation Fund with a £10m pot of money and will encourage local councils and landlords to help raise a further £30m of cash to help reverse vacancy rates on the high street and support new business start-ups.

Local authorities that deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise their high streets will take a share of a £1m Future High Street X-Fund.

A £500,000 fund has also been put in place to invest in Business Improvement Districts.

Government will reveal its full response later this morning, when more details are expected.

Shapps revealed he has committed to helping councils revoke unnecessary bylaws that hinder new markets and businesses and he will also consult on abolishing centrally-set minimum parking charges, enabling councils to lower parking charges.

Shapps said: “Mary Portas’s review made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face.  With Internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, they must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back.

“Her report has provided the catalyst for change that many towns have been craving. 

“I now want to see people coming together to form their own town teams and turning their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future.”

Other plans include drawing more visitors to town centres with a National Markets Day and a National Markets Fortnight, while a second round of Portas Pilots will also launch, offering councils a share of a £1.2m pot to put their ideas in place, after the “massive interest” the current competition has sparked.

Today is the deadline for local authorities to submit bids to become a Portas Pilot in the first round.

Shapps added that he wants hundreds of Town Teams - made up of key community figures - across the UK to ensure their high streets offer more than just retailers, pushing more entertainment venues and leisure facilities alongside housing and local public services.

The Government also hopes to encourage local shops to stay open later, stimulating a “vibrant evening economy”, to pull shoppers on to the high street after work rather than relying on online shopping.

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