New diary date: National Markets Day

The UK government has accepted ‘virtually all’ 28 of retail guru Mary Portas’s proposals into how to boost Britain’s struggling town centres.


New initiatives to stem from the recommendations include encouraging later store opening hours, reducing town-centre parking fees and hosting a National Markets Day. For the inaugural event on Saturday 23 June, towns will hire out stalls for £10 to encourage would-be retailers to try their hands at market trading.

‘I’m accepting virtually all of the recommendations from Mary Portas’s review,’ Minister of State for Communities and Local Government Grant Shapps said. ‘[B]ut I’m also going one step further, with a range of measures designed to help local people turn their high streets into the beating hearts of their communities once again.’


Other proposals the government plans to put into action include the launch of ‘town teams’ to spur retail development in town centres, and the introduction of funding schemes to fill empty shops. A £10m High Street Innovation Fund will distribute £100,000 grants to the 100 councils in the UK with the highest number of empty shops. The funding will help start-ups establish new businesses and support councils in bringing empty shops back into use.


In December, Portas released her set of recommendations into how British high streets could claw back from the ‘crisis point’ they currently face after years of neglect.

‘When I published my review I was clear that this was an action plan for our high streets, not a document to gather dust on Whitehall shelves,’ 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.’

The only scheme not adopted by the government was Portas’s call for the Secretary of State to personally consider all applications for new out-of-town shopping centres. Although she ‘would have liked’ more action in this area, Portas said she was pleased with the positive response to her report.

‘[T]oday marks the first day of a fresh new approach, putting our high streets firmly back on the public and national agenda.’

The British Retail Council lauded Shapps’s announcement but called for ‘greater action’.

‘We're waiting for the Government to share the full detail of its response since there is a difference between accepting recommendations and putting them into action,’ BRC Director of Business Tom Ironside said.

‘We were pleased with many of Mary Portas' findings, which set out a bold vision for the future of the high street, but we're concerned the Government hasn't yet matched her level of ambition with its response.’

Read more about Mary Portas's retail review

Read Next: