Mary Portas has re-entered the high street debate with a ‘Think Piece’ reflecting on the two-year anniversary of her Portas Review.
In her report, ‘Why our High Streets still Matter’, Portas criticised central and local government for the amount of out-of-town retail space being given planning approval, citing Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) research which showed that 76% of new retail space given approval since new planning laws came into effect was out-of-town.
“‘Town Centre First’ as a policy is convincingly bandied around but the approval of Out of Town development still happens at a depressing rate so I question whether local and central government really mean it?” she said.
She also praised independent retailers for upping their game over the past two years. “Here’s a note to the supermarkets, if you’re moving back, be prepared for a fight,” added Portas. “The local independents aren’t taking it lying down anymore.”
Welcoming her comments, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The report correctly acknowledges the need to strengthen and enforce town centre first planning policy at local and national level.
“Our evidence, based on a huge sample of half of local authorities in England, has clearly identified the National Planning Policy Framework is not driving new investment in town centres. When developments go out of town they undermine the good work of local groups and authorities try to reinvigorate their high streets.”