Government launches High Street Innovation Fund in Portas response

The Government is launching a £10 million High Street Innovation Fund to deal with empty shops. The cash has been announced as part of its reponse to retail guru Mary Portas’s review of the high street.

Mary Portas

The Portas Review was published at the end of last year and set out a series of proposals based around the central tenet that ‘high streets of the future must be the hub of the community’.

Now the Government has unveiled a series of measures in response to the report, including a £10 million fund, which will go to 100 local authorities ‘to help address the issues of riots and emptys shops’.

The Government says it hopes this cash could be matched by the local authority and the landlord ‘to generate £30 million support for new business’.

Plans for a series of Portas Pilot towns, which will test concepts such as the ‘virtual high street’ have also been extended. In February bids opened for 12 Portas pilots, with towns and cities such as Derby, Stockport, Northampton and York all launching bids ahead of the 30 March deadline.

Now the scheme has been extended to a further 12 towns, with bidding for this tranche open until 30 June.

These 24 pilots will all operate using the Town Team model of operational management teams for high streets, who will work to curate high streets in the same way that landlords manage malls.

The Government response says, ‘We actively promote good design, which is crucuial to improving the high street, the evening and night-time economy, and the quality of life in general.

‘Town teams could play a crucial role in bringing partners together to encourage more creative shared use of public spaces, making these places more attractive and bringing more people to the high street.’

Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing and Local Government, points to the examples of Dixon Jones’s redesign of Exhibition Road in South Kensington, with its removal of pavement furniture, and the use of food markets and art events in Brentwood.

Other measures unveiled include a £500 000 investment for Business Improvement Districts and a Future High Street X-Fund, which will be awarded in a year’s time to the locations that deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitilise high streets.

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  • kieran bennett November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    brilliant iniative

  • Marcus Simmons November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Lichfield City Council
    53 Wade Street
    WS13 6HL
    For the attention of Mr Peter Young – Town Clerk.

    Dear Mr Young
    In reply to your letter dated 1st June 2012 regarding the award of £50,000 from the government’s “High Street Innovation Fund” to deal with empty shops as part of its reponse to retail guru Mary Portas’ review of the high street.

    As a local business person and once a week market trader as well as a long term resident of Lichfield I would like to applaud you on your acknowledgement that something drastic needs to be done to revive the retail sector of Lichfield.

    Lichfield as a city has much to offer residents and visitors alike unfortunately there are a number of barriers that stand in the way of success and in my view £50,000 should be used in such a way as to attract traders to the city giving them the opportunity to utilise the many empty retail properties in Lichfield.

    On first viewing to a visitor to Lichfield they will immediately become aware of the large number of café / coffee houses, now please do not get me wrong I frequent many of these on a regular basis however with there being so many in the city centre the message that it sends out is that Lichfield is open for eating but not necessarily for other retail shopping.

    In my opinion as a city we do not play to our strengths, we have much more to offer than say Tamworth but people flock there due to the low cost of parking and variety of big name shops. Yes it is fair to say that Lichfield does have its fair share of unique smaller shops, unfortunately these do not seem to be enough of a pull compared to the large multiples.

    On a recent visit to Leek I was drawn to make comparisons with Lichfield, their retail sector seems to be doing quite well, small boutique shops seem to operate on 50% retail trade and 50% internet using their retail outlets as a shop window. Other shops were also doing relatively well, everyone I spoke to commented that it was because of the cheap parking which meant that people could afford to stay a little longer and maybe enjoy a coffee and a piece of cake rather than dashing off because of high car parking costs, thus boosting local trade, it is no more expensive to park at retail centres in Sutton Coldfield and Solihull than Lichfield and they have a much greater variety of shops to offer.

    I am trying my best to be positive about the situation as I love Lichfield as a City and would do anything in my power to help revive the retail sector of the city.

    Unfortunately I do not believe that an artificial ice rink or a 4-way bungee jump would contribute to increased retail trade and help towards the problem of empty shops. It would only be for a very short period of time, what is needed is a long term well thought out sustainable plan of action and not just a five to six week one off novelty item that in my opinion would give little to the retailers of Lichfield.

    With regard to moving the market this is an option that I would not wish to happen, business is slow at the best of times when people know where you are located, whenever there is need to move away from the market square takings drop even more, so for this reason I would be against relocating my market stall for the 4-5 week period in late July / August.

    I hope that my comments have been constructive as I would welcome a robust short, medium and long term plan to revive the retail prospects of Lichfield rather than a potential quick fix where there is no evidence to show would make any difference to retail trade whatsoever.

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