Local business leaders welcome report on reviving the high street

LOCAL business leaders have welcomed findings in a retail expert’s report on how to revive the high street.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said Mary Portas’ review offered the chance to protect town centres from declining.

Ms Portas wants high streets to be managed through new ‘town teams’ who would be responsible for developing businesses in the area.

Her report recommends relaxing licensing rules for market stalls making it easier for people to set up stands.

She also wants some regulations to be axed for high street traders, including restrictions on night-time deliveries.

A national market day aimed at promoting indoor or outdoor markets and helping drive traffic towards shops is another proposal, as well as affordable town centre parking is another key recommendation.

The FSB’s move comes after the Observer reported last week on the closure of Past Times in Priory Meadow, the Next store, which shut on December 29, and the upcoming closure of the Early Learning Centre on February 11.

Brett McLean, chairman of the 1066 Country branch, said: “We need a stronger ‘Town Centre First’ policy and changes to the planning system will be hugely important to shaping the character of our high streets and town centres.

“It is vital that the Government and councils act on the recommendations of the Portas report and curb the shift towards out-of-town retail developments.

“If we want to ensure vibrant high streets for the future, we need to carefully balance that expansion with ensuring that existing town centres are not unwittingly damaged.

“Mary Portas has understood the challenge of ensuring the long-term sustainability of our high streets.

“What we need now is for it to be translated into action.”