Action beyond the recommendations set out in Mary Portas’s review is needed if the UK’s high streets are to recover quicker, according to housing minister Grant Shapps.
Shapps, who took on responsibility for implementing retail expert Portas’s recommendations in December, responded to a debate in Parliament on Wednesday on the future of town centres and high streets, tabled by the Backbench Business Committee.
In his response, Shapps, who previously said the Government would not bring forward its response – due in spring – to the review despite a raft of recent retail administrations, cited changes to business rates, the creation of town centre teams and a “town centre first” planning policy as successful proposals. However, he said MPs should not expect all of these to lead to an automatic improvement on the high street.
Shapps said: “We intend to provide a very energetic response to the Portas review. The Government likes what [Portas] has said, and we’ve already started to implement a number of her recommendations.
“It’s also true that in order for her recommendations to work, it would not be sufficient for us simply to put in place all 28 of them. [People] should not expect a universal recovery in the high street simply as a result of such action. Retail is much more complex than that, and we need to get to the heart of the reasons it has suffered so badly.”
MPs present at the debate, including Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones and Lewisham MP Jim Dowd, raised concerns based on experiences in their constituencies.
Danczuk, who wrote to Shapps at the end of last year to urge him to bring forward the Government response to the Portas review, raised the issues of business rates, the lack of pace on business rate appeals processed by the Valuation Office Agency and the impact of suppliers having their credit insurance withdrawn.