The government has launched a new initiative to prevent further casualties on the high street, following the recent collapse of number of big name retailers.
Announced by local growth minister Mark Prisk, the Future High Streets Forum is a new scheme which will bring together leaders from across retail, property and business to better understand the competition town centres across the country face. It will also seek to drive forward new ideas and policies, building on the work of retail guru Mary Portas and her review of the high street.
The Forum will be co-chaired by Prisk and Alex Gourlay, chief executive of Alliance Boots, and will draw on the expertise of such representatives from the industry as: John Lewis; the British Retail Consortium; the British Property Federation; the British Council of Shopping Centres; the Association of Town & City Management; and the Association of Convenience Stores.
Prisk said: “It is clear that our high streets will need to change to prosper. There is already great work being done across the country to revitalise the town centres, but it needs to spread further faster. The Future High Streets Forum will help us do that.
Prisk added that the Forum will discuss, with the government, challenges on the high streets, and help to devise practical solutions, looking at areas with parking, the use of empty spaces, which could be transformed into pop-up shops, and the potential for allowing commercial landlords to turn part of their building into a residential property.
Welcoming the move, Robert Downes, policy advisor at the Forum of Private Business, said: “It’s great to see the government thinks our high streets are worth saving, and is making a credible effort to stop the rot. The mission to save UK high streets will indeed require a collaborative effort, and the Future High Street Forum appears to be heading in the right direction by bringing a variety of organisations together.
“The Forum thinks councils have to take a lead at a local level though, through initiatives such as free car parking, and better public transport links. Crucially though, planning departments need to change, as do the rules and regulations they are governed, to make it less onerous for new businesses to start-up and harder for supermarkets to move in and take-over."
He added that while the internet has been blamed for the damage to the high street, supermarkets have also played their part as well.
Downes commented: “Only recently there’ve been reports of supermarkets clamouring to take over premises now empty thanks to the collapse of firms such as Jessops and Blockbuster. So what we really need is for authorities to be given new planning powers allowing them to refuse applications by supermarkets if it’s likely they will prove detrimental to other businesses already there.
"Under present laws council planners can only decide an application purely on planning grounds and nothing else.”
Join the Use Your Loaf campaign
British Baker’s latest awareness initiative, Use Your Loaf, aims to encourage bakers to play their part on the high street and attract customers back in to town centres through their own businesses.
To find out more:
- Like our dedicated Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/useyourloafcampaign
- Follow our Use Your Loaf Twitter feed for the latest news: @UseYourLoaf_BB
Why not put one of our Use Your Loaf posters in your shop window to promote the campaign to your customers and other businesses on the high street. To download the image, click here.