TV Retail Expert Mary Portas Warns Britain's High Streets Have Reached 'Crisis Point'
Neglect and mismanagement have left Britain’s high streets "sick" and "dying", TV retail expert Mary Portas has claimed ahead of an official review due today.
Ms Portas, star of the BBC programme Mary Queen of Shops says the situation has reached "crisis point" and warns that urgent action is needed to halt the decline of the country’s town centres.
Prime Minister David Cameron tasked Ms Portas with compiling a report into the rash of shop closures in May.
In a foreword to today’s report published in The Daily Telegraph, she wrote: "Unless urgent action is taken, much of Britain will lose, irretrievably, something that is fundamental to our society; something that has real social as well as economic worth to our communities… that I felt after decades of erosion, neglect and mismanagement was destined to disappear forever.
"I believe that our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that can give a sense of belonging and trust to a community; a sense of belonging which, as the recent riots demonstrated, has been eroded and in some instances eradicated."
Ms Portas is expected to suggest regulations on high-street traders are axed, including restrictions on night-time deliveries, put in place to minimise noise for local residents.
It is understood that Ms Portas has decided against backing a moratorium on out-of-town retail developments, a measure some business groups believe would give a huge boost to town-centre shops.
The report is expected to propose plans for a national market day in a bid to promote indoor or outdoor markets and help drive traffic towards shops.
Richard Dodd, from the British Retail Consortium, said: "It seems that there are a good number of sensible ideas in the report which, if taken together and adopted, could make a difference to many of our troubled high streets."
Ms Portas said: "With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker."
However, council leaders criticised Ms Portas for failing to consult with them.
Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "The LGA is concerned that the local expertise of councils will get overlooked once the high street review reaches its conclusions. The review needs to take on board the view of councils, who are trusted by local people to ensure that local high streets meet their needs.
"Councils play a crucial role in growing local economies and improving high streets and need to be suitably consulted if they are to achieve this. We urge Mary Portas to enter discussions with councils on how they can boost local high streets."