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Landlords welcome Government response to Portas

Government has responded, with high street failure showing no sign of abating.

Among the key recommendations are:

* A multi-million pound High Street Innovation Fund – kick started by £10million of taxpayers’ money focussed on bringing empty shops back into use – which, if supplemented by both councils and landlords, could see £30million going to support new business start-ups while bringing empty high street properties back into use;
* A £1million Future High-Street X-Fund, which will be awarded to the locations which deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise the high streets in a year’s time;
* A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts, to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs; and
* Launching a further round of Portas Pilots, to trial some of Mary’s recommendations and come up with new ideas to breathe life into underused high streets. This is in response to the massive interest from hundreds of locations across the country sparked by the first wave of 12 pilots launched last month.

Much to the relief to the property industry it was also confirmed that out-of-town retail development will not automatically be subject to Secretary of State sign off nor will the Government support an affordable shops quota.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "[Today’s] response should not be seen as the end of the process, but the start of one – a call to arms for anyone who cares about our high streets. Government help on funding and policy is welcome, but ultimately if we want our high streets to thrive a clear local-driven vision is required.

"By strengthening BIDs, introducing Town Teams, and also business neighbourhood planning, there has never been a better time for those who care about our high streets to get involved."  

She added: "I meet landlords on a weekly basis who are as passionate about the shopping experience they provide as the retailers who occupy their premises.

"Hopefully, through our own actions, we have shown that landlords are active and interested partners on our high streets. Our high streets need investment and one of the recommendations that I hope will now be taken forward with haste is to investigate how we can formalise landlord involvement in BIDs.

"We also look forward to progressing the recommendation on promoting the lease code. This presents a great opportunity, not only to promote responsible leasing, but also to bring to greater prominence what our industry does, which is to make space for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

"I am particularly grateful to have Rightmove on board, who can provide a new way for us to get lease code information to that small end of the market that is always so difficult to crack." 

Meanwhile, Jeremy Blackburn, Head of UK Policy, RICS, said: "This response is a welcome signal of the Government’s willingness to see high streets as engines for growth.

"Local town and city centre businesses are key to achieving economic recovery and town teams or Business Improvement Districts offer business communities the chance to work together as one entity to shape the development of their high street.

"However it is essential that these recommendations not only compliment the changes made by the Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework but also does not create more mechanisms and red tape.

"RICS supports the Code for Leasing Business Premises and is raising awareness of it throughout our 60,000 members involved in commercial property. Also RICS and the British Retail Consortium have produced a small business lease that will support SMEs by simplifying the leasing process for landlords and small business tenants."

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