The government’s high streets Tsar Mary Portas has been challenged to take decisive action on the key issues affecting independent retailers.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has met with Portas to present the case for local shops ahead of the publication of her review at the end of this year.

In the meeting ACS chief executive James Lowman urged Portas to get tough on planning policy and drive investment on high streets through business rates income. “ACS supports the High Streets review, and there is no doubting Mary Portas’s commitment to diverse and vibrant high streets,” he said. “The key to achieving this lies in effective planning policy and a fair approach to rates. There is a fundamental tension between out of town retail parks and community retailing, and this review has to get to the heart of this battle. Non-confrontational best practice advice will not suffice.”

The ACS presented research that while out-of-town development has fallen, there is currently 30m sq ft of development in the planning stage with just 7m sq ft of town centre development in the works.

“For every town centre development planned, there is currently almost four times as much space being allocated to out of town retail,” added Lowman. “These businesses are able to provide massive expanses of free parking at very little cost to them, while rates in town centres continue to drive people away.”

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