TV celebrity and retail guru Mary Portas has been tasked with identifying how to promote more prosperous and diverse high streets.

Prime minister David Cameron appointed the ‘Queen of Shops’ to lead an independent review into the future of the High Street as part of the government’s wider Growth Review, which is examining how to remove barriers to achieve sustainable and balanced growth.

As part of her review Mary Portas will address the problem of vacant shops and the proliferation of ‘clone towns’, while advising how to increase the number of small and independent retailers in local town centres.

“With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our high has never been starker,” she said.

“I am calling on businesses, local authorities and shoppers to contribute their ideas on how we can halt this decline in its tracks and create town centres that we can be proud of.”

Mr Cameron said: “The High Street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.”

Welcoming the review, Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said: “We will be urging the government not to shy away from the controversial issues and to put in place a strategy that will robustly promote the high street at a crucial time.

“We need robust decisions on national planning rules that are explicitly ‘town centre first’ preventing harmful out of town development, we need an approach to business rates that encourages retailers to invest in high streets and neighbourhood centres, and we must promote diversity so that consumers have real choice now and in the long term.”

Mary Portas will visit a number of town centres across England during the review.

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