Saving the high street: Portas unveils defence plan

By Ian Dunt

The official report into saving the British high street is published today, with plans to rescue town centres from trade slumps and out-of-town developments.

TV presenter Mary Portas has outlined a 28-point plan, after being commissioned to write the report by David Cameron.

"I believe that our high streets are a really important part of pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can," she said.

"Our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community. Something which, as the recent riots clearly demonstrated, has been eroded and in some instances eradicated."

Ms Portas suggested setting up 'town teams' made up of local residents, who will be responsible for managing the high street, including accessibility and trade. The move would significantly diminish local council's power over the town centre but it would chime with the coalition's 'big society' agenda.

Ms Portas also suggested establishing a national 'market day' for independent trader and relaxing licensing laws so that market stalls were easier to set up.

Out of town parking fees should be significantly raised to discourage shoppers from leaving the town centre and business rates tweaked to help small independent retailers, she said.

The TV presenter decided against proposing a moratorium on out-of-town development – a move backed by several small business groups.

Every day 20 shops close in the UK, according to recent figures. New data also suggests some parts of the country have seen one in three shops emptied, as consumer demand continues to fall in the wake of the financial crisis.