Orf with their heads: planning review disappoints Queen of Shops

Mary Portas is apparently none too pleased that the government left one of her most radical recommendations out of its National Planning Framework.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas is, apparently, not best pleased this morning, after the Government rejected one of the most radical ideas in her review into declining high streets, published in December. Word is her maj wasn’t impressed by the National Planning Framework, unveiled today, which left out her recommendation that communities secretary Eric Pickles should be given powers to prevent out-of-town developments.

To be fair, the idea hadn’t exactly received universal approval. While groups like the British Independent Retailers’ Association had liked the idea, the CEO of one of the UK’s biggest retailers called it an ‘insane’ proposal, while an assortment of retailers and landlords also expressed varying levels of ire. So it’s hardly surprising that the Government rejected the idea. Although it did compromise, including a ‘town centre first’ principle in the Framework, which apparently mollified La Portas. Even the British Retail Consortium was impressed with that, saying the Government had made a ‘common sense decision not to seek to restrict consumer choice’.

The Government did point out that other than that, it had adopted ‘almost all’ of Portas’ recommendations. Other ideas it included are a £10m ‘innovation pot’ to help bring empty shots back into use, an X-Factor-style innovation contest that will see high streets competing for a £1m fund, and a ‘national markets day’. Some of the country’s most run-down high streets have even been competing to become one of 12 ‘Portas Pilots’ - apparently, the idea’s been so popular that the Government already has another 12 planned.

Not bad going, considering the rather unimpressive impact many of the Government’s celebrity ‘advisers’ have had so far. Local government and housing minister Grant Shapps could barely contain his enthusiasm for Portas, saying her review ‘made crystal clear the stark challenge our high streets face. With internet shopping and out-of-town centres here to stay, the must offer something new if they are to entice visitors back.’ So at least she has one fan.

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