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An Overview Of The Mary Portas Review - The Recommendations

Samuel Thompson - Wednesday, February 08, 2012

We’re now on to part 5 of this overview, where I’ll be summarising the recommendations suggested by the Portas Review. If you’ve missed the previous posts you can find the first one here.

A Guiding Strategy

In grossly simple terms, your average high street is a disorganised collection of disparate stores and shops, without a huge amount of interaction between them. How, therefore, does one go about improving the high street as a whole when the people who make it up are (quite rightly) completely focused on their own businesses?

Town Teams (in no way affiliated with Time Team)

One of the major recommendations of the Portas Review is the creation of Town Teams, central bodies working on behalf of the high street for the benefit of all, made up of stakeholders, influencers and business owners from the local community.

Such teams would fill a variety of roles – from high street marketing and branding to admin and event organisation – while also bringing together all of the key players and businesses for, in some places, the first time.

Super BID’s

Complimenting the idea of the Town Team is the proposal to extend the concept of Business Investment Districts (BID), which the Report would like to see transformed into Super BID’s.

Business Investment Districts are areas in which all businesses pay a levy on top of their rates in order to fund improvements in the neighbourhood, such as extra security and street cleaning. The Super BID would take on further responsibilities, similar to (or as part of) the remit of the Town Teams. These would revolve less around the nitty-gritty of upkeep and physical improvements and be more concerned with shaping the future of the high street through central strategizing between the BID members.

Mass Involvement

The high street is more than just a collection of businesses. It’s a part of the community that concerns all manner of people, from residents to landlords. The Review makes a case for involving everyone in the future of the high street, making bodies such as the Town Teams truly representative organisations that take account of all opinions and concerns.

Smoothing The Path

With all the difficulties and red-tape businesses face – both start-ups and established stores – it’s no surprise that the Review encourages making things easier.

Deregulation and Realistic Rates

Start with the basics... The report calls for simplification of current legislation and a new, more realistic approach to rates. Start-ups, in particular, could benefit hugely from well- chosen concessions.


From simple things like a list of local landlords to tables comparing parking prices in the region, Ms. Portas makes a case for a much greater sense of transparency on the high street.

Although the aims of the suggestions vary, the main thrust of the argument for transparency is that it will highlight problems and absurdities affecting the high street that might otherwise remain hidden. Taking the parking price table as an example, it would quickly become clear if a council was charging shoppers inordinate amounts of money to be on the high street and thus driving them away.

Market trading

The Review makes a point of extolling the virtues of markets as drivers of innovation and great starting places for business. One of the recommendations suggests simplifying the process of setting up market stalls so that entrepreneurs can try out their ideas at a low cost and without too much wasted effort.

On top of that, the report calls for a National Market Day in order to raise awareness of markets and support traders, which would also act as a means of getting people directly involved in markets.

The Place To Be

As part of the central vision to be designated to Town Teams and their ilk, the question of attracting consumers to the high street rates very highly indeed. The report makes a number of suggestions which aim to tackle some of the issues that put people off visiting their local shops.


Covered at some length in a previous post, a lack of parking (or unjustifiably high costs) can be disastrous for a high street. Ms. Portas recommends that local areas consider new approaches to parking, such as Chester’s ‘Free After Three’ parking promotion, as a way of getting people onto the high street.

The look and feel

The look and feel of a high street goes a long way to losing or keeping consumers. The Review suggests that Town Teams (or some other central body) be resposible for keeping the high street attractive and secure. This could involve teams of voluntary ‘Town Rangers’ who would be responsible for clamping down on anti-social behaviour and theft.

Busy and bustling

As well as involving landlords through the Town Teams and involving them in BID’s, the report requests new legislation and greater power for local areas to reduce the number of empty shop fronts on the high street, either by taking them over or forcing landlords to ‘use it or lose it’.

Central Government

It was the government who originally commissioned the report, so it seems only fair that they get a mention somewhere.

Exceptional sign off powers for the secretary of state

In order to really show a commitment to the high street and demonstrate a more critical approach to out-of-town developments, the Review suggests that the Secretary of State be involved in scrutinising the case for those developments which are going ahead. Realistically there would be certain caveats (e.g. restricting this process to larger developments), but the net result would be a much more stringent approach to plans that could potentially do great harm to the high street.

High street favouritism

The report also calls for an explicit presumption in favour of town centre development in current legislation, which would aim to discourage out-of-town developments when more sustainable, local building options are available.


In total there were 28 recommendations provided by the report, each fleshed out over a total of 28 pages; I’ve summarised them here in quite broad strokes, but you can always skim over the full list here.

The report itself isn’t overly long – clocking in at 50 or so pages – and I’d thoroughly recommend reading it if you have a particular interest in the issues facing the high street. If you haven’t got the time or inclination I hope this overview has sufficed in getting the gist across.

I’ll be putting up one last post about the Portas Review, which will consist of some of my thoughts on and reactions to its contents. I’ll also put up a quick post which will link to each section for reference purposes in anticipation of the next time the Review hits the news.

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