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February 08, 2013

Survival strategy for beleaguered high streets

A new body — the Future High Streets Forum — will advise the government on the challenges facing high streets, and develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt. It is intended to build on the work of the Portas review.

The forum will be co-chaired by local growth minister Mark Prisk and Alex Gourlay, chief executive, health & beauty division, Alliance Boots. Other members of the forum include: John Lewis; the British Retail Consortium; the British Property Federation; the British Council of Shopping Centres; the Association of Town & City Management; and the Association of Convenience Stores.

Mark Prisk said: “It is clear that our high streets will need to change to prosper. There is already great work being done across the country to revitalise the town centres, but it needs to spread further faster. The Future High Streets Forum will help us do that.”

The forum will advise the 27 Portas Pilots as well as 330 Town Team Partners on how to adapt to a new era of online shopping and changing consumer behaviour. Key issues will include:

  • parking solutions
  • the use of redundant empty spaces as pop-up shops
  • allowing commercial landlords to turn part of their building into residential property
  • “town centre first” planning rules

Emma Jones, co-founder of StartUp Britain and PopUp Britain, is to represent small and start-up businesses on the Future High Street Forum. She said: “High streets are in trouble but there are record numbers of small businesses out there who would love to get a toe hold on the high street. We need to be more creative around our high streets to allow them to reflect what’s happening in the business world.”

Robert Downes, policy advisor at the Forum of Private Business (FPB), said: “What we really need is for authorities to be given new planning powers allowing them to refuse applications by supermarkets if it’s likely they will prove detrimental to other businesses already there. Under present laws council planners can only decide an application purely on planning grounds and nothing else.”