PRESS RELEASE: Call for central and local government to demonstrate focused, informed and long term leadership to build on the foundations of local action that have been laid.
To mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Portas Review national charity AMT – which operates the Towns Alive programme of support for towns across the UK – and think tank Urban Pollinators today publishes a new outline of how to help struggling towns and high streets.
The organisations have brought together a range of collaborators to reflect on how town centres and high streets have made progress since the publication of Mary Portas’ Review in December 2013 under the ‘Portas one year on’ banner (and #portas1year hashtag on twitter). They reflect on the biggest challenges and opportunities – and how to achieve their ambitions.
In a joint statement, AMT and Urban Pollinators say:
“High streets and town centres remain firmly on the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments’ agendas. It’s encouraging that so much local action is taking place and that people are starting to take ownership of the agenda, but this still needs to be translated into visions for change at a national and at local levels – what we do have is not yet adequate.
“There is a high risk that the goodwill generated through the Portas Review will be lost if action to support town centres is undermined by public funding cuts, poor planning decisions and business decisions that fail to take the wider context into account.
“Town centres continue to face significant challenges; many remain in crisis. The Portas Review is just a first step; now central and local government need to become more focused and develop realistic long term ambitions for town centres. And towns need to embrace every opportunity they can to take control of their futures.”
Coinciding with the anniversary, AMT has launched a new campaign, Town Centre First WATCH (#TCFwatch on twitter). AMT’s chief executive Chris Wade says “Rigorous application of the revised Town Centre First policy is crucial to the future of towns and high streets.”
Other contributions to Portas one year on cover:
- consumer revolution, retail evolution, and innovation – how the high street and its retail businesses can embrace new technologies and innovate as a practical way to increase sales;
- using neighbourhood planning to foster engagement between community and high street;
- opportunities from empty space and pop-up shops which can test ideas and allow creative ideas to flourish;
- why the business rates issue – a “flawed and outdated business rate mode that now damages the high street” – is of such importance;
- and from ‘me’ towns to ‘we’ towns – an overview weaving together 3 key challenges and 3 key opportunities for town centres, adding long term ambitions and thoughts on how to achieve these.
Chris Wade adds: “The Portas Pilot towns are a welcome and high profile experiment to show what can be achieved at a local level. On the anniversary of the publication of Mary Portas’ Review, it’s clear that such local action has to happen within the context of wider national and systemic change and that central and local government must demonstrate focused, informed and long term leadership to build on the foundations that have been laid.”
Portas Review, one year on is available to view at http://towns.org.uk/2012/12/12/portas-review-one-year-on