High streets to get government help

Robert Everitt
Robert Everitt

RETAIL guru Mary Portas has completed her review into the health of the British high street and put together a list of recommendations to keep our high streets bustling.

These include establishing town teams to ensure high streets are accessible, clean and safe and making it easier for people to become market traders.

Towns have also been invited to apply to become Portas pilot towns which will receive a share of £1 million to help rejuvenate their town centres.

Bury St Edmunds will not be nominated however Breckland Council has nominated Thetford and Forest Heath District Council has nominated Brandon.

Brandon’s bid has been backed by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

Emma Finn, communications and engagements manager at the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The board looked at bids from across the two counties and felt Brandon had particular potential as a retail destination. They were clearly very passionate about their bid and they had some great ideas.”

St Edmundsbury Borough Council has said it is already acting towards several of Mary Portas’ recommendations.

It is inviting people to become market traders for a day on June 30 as well as offering struggling businesses assistance with business rates through rate payment holidays.

Robert Everitt, chairman of St Edmundsbury’s Bury St Edmunds area working party, said: “We cannot make people come to Bury St Edmunds and spend money we can just make it as attractive as possible.”

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bid4Bury, said: “In recent weeks I have been dismayed by decisions made by the council in regards of parking and the Government in regard to the business rate increase which appears to fly in the face of the Portas report.

“Nonetheless, hopefully this is an opportunity for those in both local and national government to take a new look at how they can work with businesses, landlords and organisations like Bid4Bury and the chamber of commerce to ensure the wonderful town centre we have continues to be a vibrant and wonderful place to visit.”

Andrew Denny, of Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce, said: “The most significant thing about the report is that it’s been commissioned and recognised.”

Mr Denny agreed with Cllr Everitt that Bury would be unlikely to be selected as a Portas pilot town but said that issues such as business rates and transport needed to be addressed.

He said: “There’s no room for complacency we have to recognise how fragile Bury town centre is – we are balancing on a knife edge.”