Call for ‘Queen of Shops’ laws

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THE Government should legislate to back up expert Mary Portas’ ideas for saving the high street, Bid4Bury’s chief executive said.

Retail expert and television’s ‘Queen of Shops’, Miss Portas was asked by the Government in May to look into the state of Britain’s high streets and suggest ways to boost them.

Her ideas have been welcomed by Bid4Bury’s Mark Cordell who said: “My hope is Mary’s recommendations will be considered in Whitehall and result in legislation. The issues she raised aren’t going to resolve themselves.”

She calls for town centres to be run like businesses by strengthening the management, developing the Business Improvement Districts like Bid4Bury, and encouraging new markets.

She urges ‘get the basics right to allow businesses to flourish’ by making the business rate system support small businesses and independent retailers, encouraging cheaper town centre car parking and removing red tape.

She says planners should ensure a ‘town centre first approach’ and encourage large retailers into them.

She wants landlords discouraged from leaving properties empty, with councils able to step in when landlords are negligent.

Finally, she wants communities given a greater say and innovative community uses of empty shops to be encouraged.

Mr Cordell said he would like to see councils directly receiving business rates instead of the money going to central government because it would motivate them to ensure high streets were thriving and empty shops were filled.

He also backed Miss Portas’ views on landlords, citing shops in Bury where businesses had left before the end of their lease so are still paying rents. “There’s no disincentive for keeping them empty,” Mr Cordell said. “Why not give preferential rents to start-up businesses?

“People moan about charity shops, but its better to have town shops occupied than have vacant spaces.”