The Government’s response to the Portas Review, published in April 2012, accepted all but one of the 28 recommendations. The recommendation to introduce Secretary of State “sign off” for all new out-of-town developments and to require all large new developments to have an “affordable shops” quota was not accepted.
Following the Portas Review, a programme was established by the Government to help support high streets of all shapes and sizes across England. This included the establishment of 27 Portas Pilots across England, which were designed to test different approaches to revitalising high streets and town centres.
It also funded the creation of 360 Town Teams that were not selected to become Portas Pilots to give them the opportunity to kick start activity in their areas, with funding of £10,000 and a programme of practical support. The Government went beyond the recommendation for a “National Markets Day” to support and part-fund the very successful “Love Your Local Market” campaign, now in its sixth year. A £1 million High Street Renewal Award was also made available to seven local areas – two of which were Portas Pilot towns – delivering the most effective and innovative plans to bring their town centres back to life.
In addition, a series of measures were implemented in response to the Portas Review. These included a commitment to support Business Improvement Districts, support for small businesses through rate relief and business rate discounts, and planning changes to allow business to respond flexibly to changing market conditions. Concerted action was also taken to tackle over-zealous parking practices.
A High Street Innovation Fund was established in 2012 worth £10 million to help those councils with the highest incidence of empty properties and those affected by the 2011 riots.
The Future High Street Forum has met since 2013, bringing together leading business figures in high street retailing with the Government. The Forum launched the “High Street Pledge” in July 2016 – signed by over 40 national retailers and other high streets business committing their stores to supporting their local high streets – and since 2014 the annual Great British High Street Competition which recognises and celebrates the wonderful work that local communities are doing across the country in their high streets has taken place.
The Future High Street Forum also launched a digital pilot in Gloucestershire with the support of the GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership to support SMEs to embrace digital. The Pilot has produced some interesting results.