The Portas Review – High Street Innovation Fund

Market Rasen's Market Place Walk

How can we get more footfall?

by Mark Sturgess

The Government is continuing to demonstrate its commitment to revitalising the high street.

It announced a further £10m “High Street Innovation Fund” on Friday (30 March 2012) with £100k being allocated to West Lindsey.

The Fund is part of its response to the Portas Review of the high street. The review recognised that high streets cannot rely on retail and they have to offer something new and different that neither shopping centres nor the internet can match.

A focus of the Fund is empty properties (not just shops) and the Government is encouraging local councils to use new ways of getting empty properties used. It specifically refers to local councils using business rate discounts – which councils will be able to offer from 1 April following a change in the law.

It also sees councils using their planning powers and encouraging what is calls “meanwhile uses” (this fits well with the idea of “pop up” shops which is part of Market Rasen’s Portas Pilot bid) to help revitalise the high street. “Meanwhile uses” appear to be uses that can take place in a vacant shop between one permanent use finishing and another starting.

A main way the Government sees empty properties being brought back into use is through collaborative working between councils and landlords. In particular it wants to see:

  • Landlords offering a discount to new tenants.
  • Councils to use the High Street Innovation Fund to reduce business rates for empty properties.
  • Councils to match the business rate discount provided by the High Street Innovation Fund.

In addition to financial incentives the Government is encouraging councils to make its empty, or under used properties, available to start up companies.

Finally the Government gives examples of other ways the Fund could be used:

  • Helping the community to purchase empty properties through the new “Community Right to Bid”
  • Encouraging “meanwhile uses”
  • Supporting local skills improvement/social enterprises by developing an apprenticeship scheme to train young people in shop-fitting and refurbishment.

In West Lindsey the fund will be used to support high streets in Market Rasen, Caistor and Gainsborough.

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