To ask Her Majesty’s Government, given the increasing prevalence of online retailers, what steps they are taking to support local authorities and town centre managers in increasing trade for high street shops.
12 February 2015
Since 2010, we have taken forward a wide range of activities to help communities adapt to changing high streets.
In 2011 the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister commissioned retail expert Mary Portas to conduct an independent review, and the Government accepted all but one of the 28 recommendations.
The Government provided direct funding and support to 24 Portas Pilots (a further 3 were funded by the Mayor of London) and over 330 town teams, who are working with local communities, businesses and local authorities to identify and tackle the issues faced in their local area.
We established the Future High Streets Forum, to advise Government and develop practical policies. The Forum has worked with us to launch the successful Great British High Streets Portal, which brings together practical support and advice for all local authorities and groups working to regenerate their town centres. In 2014, we launched the Great British High Street Awards, which have been a great success, and will be running again in 2015.
We have provided support for retail markets, including funding for the ‘Love Your Local Market’ campaigns.
We have provided support for the establishment of Business Improvement Districts with a loan fund to help start up costs. In November 2014, we announced new measures to strengthen the role of Business Improvement Districts, to ensure they are able to have a play a key role in shaping and revitalising their town centres.
We have increased business rate discounts for 300,000 businesses including doubling small business rate relief, capping the inflation increase to 2%, and a targeted discount for smaller shops, pubs and restaurants. In total this amounted to over £1.4 billion of government support.
We have also given local councils wide-ranging, discretionary powers to grant business rates discounts as they see fit, empowering them to invest in the future of their town centres. Where they do so, central Government will automatically meet 50% of any costs.
We are also tackling aggressive parking enforcement, and have introduced new permitted development rights to help town centres to be more flexible.
Recent research demonstrated that the internet can be a friend to the high street, with 'click and collect' being an increasing driver for footfall to town centres.