'Portas Plus' plan to boost shops
The Government has accepted "virtually all" of the recommendations from retail expert Mary Portas with a multimillion-pound funding package to breathe new life into Britain's ailing high streets.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said a "Portas Plus" plan would include a £10 million High Street Innovation Fund to return empty shops to use, money awarded to locations delivering the most creative and effective revitalisation projects, and a National Markets Day to encourage entrepreneurs.
A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts will also be set up to help town centres access loans.
Ms Portas set out 28 recommendations in her December review commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron, including planning changes to aid town centres, free parking and annual market days, while warning that high streets could "disappear forever" without urgent action.
Mr Shapps said: "Today I'm accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas's review but I'm also going that one step further, offering a 'Portas Plus' deal with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their high streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again."
He added: "Her report has provided the catalyst for change that many towns have been craving. I now want to see people coming together to form their own town teams and turning their creative ideas into reality to ensure their high streets thrive long into the future."
Ms Portas said: "I've been thrilled by the response of people, town teams and communities up and down the country who have seized this opportunity to come together and form their own ideas.
"I'm pleased that the response from Grant Shapps today is designed to build on this momentum and give local people the tools they need to turn their creative ideas into reality, along with extra money to bring empty shops back into use.
"Naturally I would have liked greater central intervention in critical areas such as change of use, parking, business rates and the sign off of new out of town developments and I will continue to fight for these, but I do believe that today marks the first day of a fresh new approach, putting our high streets firmly back on the public and national agenda."
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the Government's response to the report by Mary Portas included some "positive steps" but "doesn't live up to her bigger ambition to revitalise our high streets".