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Can the Mary Portas plan boost shopping in Gloucestershire?

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: December 14, 2011

Mary Portas

Mary Portas

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MARY Portas - Queen of Shops - yesterday unveiled a 28 point plan to breathe new life into British high streets.

The TV expert is calling for a raft of measures to rejuvenate the retail offerings of towns and cities.

She is calling for free parking; a moritorium on out-of-town retail developments; cut price business rates for shops and a new national market day for Britain.

Nationally one in seven shops is empty and in many areas there has been a proliferation of "pound" and charity shops - including in Gloucester.

Click here for reaction from Gloucester

Click here for reaction from Cheltenham

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Ms Portas said she wants people to look at shopping in a different way, and create “multi-functional social and shopping” high streets.

“Today the model of the high street is so outdated how it works, it’s working in the same way it did in the ’60s,” she said.

“Whereas that high street was always just about shopping, that shopping has shifted into new areas. We’ve got the internet, we’ve got these super out-of-town malls, we’ve got the hypermarkets, the supermarkets, and what we haven’t done, is we haven’t redefined what the high street is. We’ve let it go actually, we’ve neglected it and we’ve not had a vision.“When you think of high streets, they’re civic places, they’re not private spaces, and therefore we as customers should stop being so passive and actually be co-creators, with the councils, with the landlords, with the businesses, with the retailers.”

The 28 recommendations are set out below and you can read the full 55 page report by clicking here

What do you think of Mary's plans? Would they work in Gloucestershire and if so where? Would free parking tempt you back into town centre shopping habits or are you just content to do all your shopping online?

Have your say using the story comment facility below.

The following list is a summary of Mary's 28 recommendations:

1. Put in place a “Town Team”: a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for high streets

2. Empower successful Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers and become “Super-BIDs”

3. Legislate to allow landlords to become high street investors by contributing to their Business Improvement District

4. Establish a new “National Market Day” where budding shopkeepers can try their hand at operating a low-cost retail business

5. Make it easier for people to become market traders by removing unnecessary regulations so that anyone can trade on the high street unless there is a valid reason why not

6. Government should consider whether business rates can better support small businesses and independent retailers

7. Local authorities should use their new discretionary powers to give business rate concessions to new local businesses

8. Make business rates work for business by reviewing the use of the RPI with a view to changing the calculation to CPI

9. Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres and we should have a new parking league table

10. Town Teams should focus on making high streets accessible, attractive and safe

11. Government should include high street deregulation as part of their ongoing work on freeing up red tape

12. Address the restrictive aspects of the ‘Use Class’ system to make it easier to change the uses of key properties on the high street

13. Put betting shops into a separate ‘Use Class’ of their own

14. Make explicit a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework

15. Introduce Secretary of State “exceptional sign off ” for all new out-of-town developments and require all large new developments to have an “affordable shops” quota

16. Large retailers should support and mentor local businesses and independent retailers

17. Retailers should report on their support of local high streets in their annual report

18. Encourage a contract of care between landlords and their commercial tenants by promoting the leasing code and supporting the use of lease structures other than upward only rent reviews, especially for small businesses

19. Explore further disincentives to prevent landlords from leaving units vacant

20. Banks who own empty property on the high street should either administer these assets well or be required to sell them

21. Local authorities should make more proactive use of Compulsory Purchase Order powers to encourage the redevelopment of key high street retail space

22. Empower local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent with new “Empty Shop Management Orders”

23. Introduce a public register of high street landlords

24. Run a high profile campaign to get people involved in Neighbourhood Plans

25. Promote the inclusion of the High Street in Neighbourhood Plans

26. Developers should make a financial contribution to ensure that the local community has a strong voice in the planning system

27. Support imaginative community use of empty properties through Community Right to Buy, Meanwhile Use and a new “Community Right to Try”

28. Run a number of High Street Pilots to test proof of concept

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  • Conault Design  |  December 14 2011, 8:37PM

    Rather than learning from Gloucester City Centre, Gloucester County Council are forcing its failed policy of introducing parking meters onto Cheltenham, Cirencester and the rest of the Cotswolds in an attempt to drive shoppers out of our town centres to retail parks with free parking or to shop on line. At the Traffic Regulation Committee meeting on Wednesday the 28th of September at Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham with hundreds of local residents and shop keepers I argued that the policy was outdated and was trying to address a problem of a different era and the difficulty in the future would be to encourage shoppers back into town centres not deterring then from using the car. I was always doubtful that busy working families would have the time, money and willingness to drag children onto a bus and to turn a 1 hours shopping trip into a half day event, however with online shopping and out of town stores we don't have to face that challenge, I can do my banking on line, my food shopping at the supermarket and I can buy everything else on line or at the retail park. The council policies are directly opposite to Mary Portas's recommendations. I still believe pedestrianisation of Gloucester has taken the heart out of a "market town" and as for Kings Square and the Bus Station! I live between Cheltenham, Gloucester and, Tewkesbury. I visit Tewkesbury shopping once every couple of years, Gloucester once or twice a year (perhaps less) and Cheltenham two, three, four times a week because I can park, pick up a few things in Montpellier, pop into a restaurant or wine bar, I can park outside my bank and if the weather is fine walk down to Cavendish House. I have friends who have gloated over the idea of Cheltenham having to suffer some of the policies which have blighted Gloucester, hoping that it might level the playing field. I think Cheltenham is more likely to end up like Gloucester which I am sorry to say is a depressing place to shop.

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  • Judy_Bloom  |  December 14 2011, 8:24PM

    Actually, one of the main points mentioned in this article, her moratorium on out-of-town retail developments, is directly contradicted by this article in the BBC I read this morning http://tinyurl.com/8xamd5m

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  • bonzaharris1  |  December 14 2011, 7:25PM

    Can she breathe life into the Dodo !!

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  • thomas1996  |  December 14 2011, 11:02AM

    I'm surprised the owners of the Regent Arcade are spending all that money on tarting up the entrance in High Street with few shoppers buying there, especially after the £millions recently spent on the roof & floors. In my opinion they would be better off offering a free parking voucher with any purchase at the stores in the centre. The Regent Arcade has already had it's best years back in the 80's & 90's with busy shops like Our Price Records & Olympus Sports - now sadly long gone. Tchibo was good too, now closed. I hardly go in there now.

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  • Reportage  |  December 14 2011, 9:42AM

    Force landlords to make their units attractive when left empty - use art schools. museums art galleries hoardings. mearketing advertising murals etc.

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  • happydays32  |  December 14 2011, 9:31AM

    TimMessanger didn't you die a gruesome death in Hot Fuzz?!?!?!?

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  • NibNobs  |  December 13 2011, 7:22PM

    And how likely is free or lower parking charges in Cheltenham or Gloucester? The council have spent so much time & effort putting the charges UP! We will get the usual excuses of "if we did that shop workers will fill up the car parks and there won't be spaces for shoppers" As for having market stalls permanently in The Promenade or High Street Cheltenham or the 'Gate' streets in Gloucester - the modern version of these stalls is ALREADY there - they are called pound shops! So without free parking people will continue to go where parking is free - Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco, any out-of-town shopping area (many have a Boots, an M&S) or Cribbs Causeway (in the dry with no street beggars!), Swindon Outlet (£1 parking!)

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  • Chris2308  |  December 13 2011, 12:25PM

    Ms Portas raises some excellent points, e.g free parking and the like but any such initiative is sadly doomed to failure for one simple reason. The buying power of the supermarkets distorts the general market to such an extent that the typical high street/corner shop cannot hope to compete on price. The notable exceptions tend to be on the housing estates, e,g Matson and Tuffley where the cost of travelling to the nearest supermarket outweighs the product price differential. For myself and well remembering the pre supermarket days and as someone who loathes shopping with a passion, I much prefer the one stop shop that the supermarkets offer. Standing in queues in each shop whilst the person in front of me slowly counts their coins out onto the counter drives me to distraction. The principle of simply zipping round the aisles and then visiting a single checkout for everything is infinitely preferable. With the new improved Tesco likely to go down the Walmart route and the plethora of goods available on the net, I think it's unlikely that I'll ever need to suffer the high street again.

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  • Bonkim2003  |  December 13 2011, 12:22PM

    Unlikely to offer free parking - got addicted to the income.

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  • Matt1006  |  December 13 2011, 12:03PM

    So, all we need now is for our local councils (including Gloucestershire County Council) to pay attention, and implement some (if not all) of Mary Portas' recommendations. RIP our local city & town centres. Damage is already done I fear, and the local muppets (sorry, Councils) don't seem to care. Agree with mikehibby about the French markets - many villages have at least one market a week, and the place is then heaving. Problem here is when it's fresh produce, it needs to be at a competitive price, or customers will still go to the big supermarkets, complete with their acres of free parking. What good is a weekly produce market in (say) Cheltenham Promenade if the customers all have to pay through the nose to park anywhere nearby?

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