Mary Portas unveiled her independent review of the UK's high streets yesterday, with a set of 28 recommendations aimed at reviving our flagging town centres.
The report, commissioned by David Cameron in May, says the number of town centre stores fell by nearly 15,000 between 2000 and 2009, with less than half our retail spending now taking place on the high street.
In her foreword to the review, Ms Portas said: "New expectations have been created in terms of value, service, entertainment and experience against which the average high street has in many cases simply failed to deliver... The only hope our high streets have of surviving in the future is to recognise what's happened and deliver something new."
Her recommendations include setting up 'Town Teams', including landlords, large and small shopkeepers, council representatives and local residents, to allow local stakeholders to come together and set out a clear vision for their town.
The report also touches on issues such as planning and parking, with Ms Portas suggesting local areas implement free controlled parking schemes like Chester's 'Free After Three' parking promotion. She also says a parking league table could rank car parks by how much they charge, compare revenues and encourage local authorities to reinvest more of the money generated by parking charges back into parking facilities.
Changing the business rates calculation to CPI instead of RPI is another recommendation, to bring businesses in line with other direct taxes. "Doing business on the high street needs to be a more attractive and economically viable option than it is at the moment," said the report.
Commenting on the review, British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: "The report sets out some practical ways to address problems faced by the UK's high streets, many of which go back much further than the economic difficulties of the last few years. Prioritising action on business rates and parking is exactly right. These are the key concerns for customers and retailers."
He added: "The three key words in the report are 'make things happen'. Let's see the best of these recommendations acted on quickly."
The Government is set to publish a response to the review in the spring.
to see the report in full.