Portas hits out at coalition over UK high streets

Kasmira Jefford
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RETAIL expert Mary Portas yesterday accused the government of lacking “joined up thinking” and said it needs to introduce a clear strategy to secure the future of Britain’s high streets.

Portas, who was tasked by David Cameron two years ago with reviewing the country’s ailing town centres, also criticised communities secretary Eric Pickles for allowing an 82,000 square foot supermarket to be built on the seafront at Margate, a Portas Pilot town.

In an interview with Channel 5 news, Portas said: “We need some clear policies or planning. We cannot have a high street first policy, with the government saying ‘Yes, we believe in it’ and then have the Secretary of State signing off out of town retail. That doesn’t work.”

The television presenter also suggested that service-based businesses such as coffee shops, health clinics, and creches – rather than retail – would be the future of the high street.

“We have been obsessed with high streets being retail. In the future we know that cannot be the case. I would imagine about 30 per cent needs to be the case,” she said.

“We need a new vision, we need to trial new ideas and we need to give opportunities to new businesses. Those could be businesses that are about wellbeing, health and sports.”

Portas also pointed out that rates being paid by some businesses on high street were “beyond ridiculous” and needed to be addressed for new businesses to be able to open.