Abstracts: May 8th, 2013

This report describes the challenges faced by traditional high streets with  threats not just from the growth of internet shopping, but also out-of-town shopping. There are also concerns about the so-called ‘clone town’ phenomenon, with local character being lost as major chains dominate the high street.

If high streets were left to wither, it would leave a hollow space running right through the heart of communities, where there should be a bustling, thriving place for people to gather.

Following the Mary Portas report on High Streets,  27 towns were selected as ‘Portas Pilot’ areas to develop and test ideas and share  experiences with the rest of the country. The government has given £2.3 million to 24 of these pilots, and the Mayor of London is funding a further 3.

The aim of this programme is to harness the energy and enthusiasm of local people and develop local leadership. Local councils, businesses and local groups who understand their communities are making the decisions about how, when and where to invest their money in order to revitalise their high streets.

The idea is to spend the money effectively rather than quickly and  each pilot has different ideas about what will work for their community. Progress so far with the initiative has seen the creation of 330 Town Teams and 27 Portas Pilots which are working hard to reinvigorate their local high street. This includes Market Rasen, which has opened 2 community shops, run an arts exhibition to attract visitors and reinvigorated the local market which recently won a prestigious award to recognise pioneering local entrepreneurship.

In addition the Love Your Local market campaign has been launched with over 400 markets and 2,000 new traders taking part, giving budding entrepreneurs a chance to take their first step on the business ladder for free or tables under a tenner

The Future High Streets Forum will take a joint the lead in driving forward these initiatives and providing the strategic leadership needed to analyse the competition and tackle the difficult problems which conventional high streets need to address.

The policy paper, The Future of High Streets, can be down loaded here.