Reply from Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP on Portas Review

Dear John

Thank you for taking the time to send in your comments as well as opening up the debate with your constituents and others through your online diary.  Your thoughts, and those of the respondents to your website, are very welcome as we take forward the government’s response to the Portas Review.  Indeed, many of the recommendations you offer, as well as those submitted by respondents to your website, are covered in Mary Portas’ Review, particularly around regulation, access and parking, and the creation of ‘Town Teams’.

With regards to regulation, we have already carried out a retail themed Red Tape Challenge, and we will work with local authorities to address their own regulatory functions.  We are very keen to identify and remove any unnecessary regulations impacting on the high street.

As far as access and parking is concerned, Mary Portas suggests the lack of free parking puts high streets at a disadvantage to out of town shopping centres, and that more should be done to make shopping in the high street easier.  Although this is an issue for each local authority, we would urge councils to look closely at their parking provision and charges and to consider the different options that are available, and think about new schemes to ensure they are working to do the best for their area and bring vitality and success to their high street.

Last year, we removed a number of barriers to tackle parking rules, including the policy that encouraged councils to set car parking charges to discourage the use of cars.  The draft National Planning Policy Framework follows through on these changes by removing the restrictions which impose maximum numbers of parking spaces in new non-residential developments.  This in turn will relieve pressure on on-street parking and support local high streets.

We have also made a number of proposals to help businesses.  We have listened to concerns about the Retail Price Index (RPI) increase for 2012-13 business rates bills, and are therefore giving businesses the option of spreading the increase over three years.  This will give businesses flexibility to manage their rates bills in the current economic climate, help their cash flow, and give them time to adjust to the impact of inflation.

Additionally, we have also doubled small business rate relief for two and a half years, which will include the whole of the 2012-13 financial year.  Over half a million businesses in England are expected to benefit, with approximately a third of a million businesses paying no rates.  We are ensuring that all eligible ratepayers automatically receive the small business multiplier, and we are removing the legal red tape requiring ratepayers to fill in paperwork to claim the relief.

In addition, government is giving local councils new powers to levy local business rate discounts, for example, to support local shops, community pubs, new business parks or vital local facilities, via the Localism Act.  The new power will be available from April this year.

With respect to rent levels, I agree with your opinion that this is a matter which the market should largely resolve and it is an area where government intervention should be measured.  Tenants who are in leases with upward only rent review clauses will indeed find that their rent does not move downwards in accordance with market values;  however, research suggests that the average lease length is now around 5 years and as such the majority of new leases do not feature rent reviews; this makes upward only rent reviews far less common that they once were.  We are working to make sure that progressive, fair and flexible leasing terms continue to form the basis of standard leasing practices across the sector.  As per Mary’s recommendations, we, in conjunction with BIS, are supporting and promoting the 2007 Code for Leasing Business Premises which sets out advice for prospective tenants and landlords aimed at ensuring tenants secure the best leasing terms possible, including considering alternatives to the upward only rent review clause.  We have challenged key industry players (RICS, the British Property Federation and the Law Society) to consider how they too can do more to raise the profile of this valuable tool.

Mary Portas recommends that Town Teams should be considered.  She clearly set out in her report how key to the success of high streets visionary, strategic and strong management can be.  We will look at ways in which the Government can support and encourage town centre management, and we would expect town teams to work with local partners to develop a joint vision for their local high street.

I recently announced a competition to choose twelve towns and cities across England to create Town Teams, with successful bidders benefiting from a share of £1 million to turn around their local high streets.  Those bidding will need to demonstrate a real transformational vision on how they can breathe new life into their high street or shopping parade and should have the strong support of their local community and a range of local partners.  Further information and the prospectus can be found at: .

The Government intends to respond formally to the Portas Review in the Spring.

Yours ever

Grant Shapps MP


  1. rose
    February 28, 2012

    One of the reasons people prefer going to out of town shopping centres is that they are free of pollution, crime, litter, and graffiti – all those things which blight our historic city centres. It does seem perverse to drive miles out in to the country to bogus high streets with bogus fountains and artificial light, when care could have been taken over the city centres to clean them up, remove the noise and pollution, and keep them policed and safe. After all, the people who drive out to the shopping centres outside cities still have to get out of their cars and walk, often a very long way by the time they have visited all the shops they want to. So why can’t they walk round the renovated city centres, having left their cars on the outskirts and come in on a tram?

  2. andre-michel
    February 28, 2012

    The small town where I’m staying for now, Cleckheaton, has plenty of parking and NO charges. I believe it’s for that reason that all shops are occupied with commercial enterprises – only two charity shops and no “cash-for-gold” shops.

    I’ve just been there now and it’s positively bustling, unlike its near neighbours.

  3. Electro-Kevin
    February 28, 2012

    What else to say but thanks ?

  4. Bob
    February 28, 2012

    Loosely translated “we’ll release the pressure of our boot on your neck to make sure that your death is long and drawn out”.

    Let’s face it, all the business rates like the council tax is increasingly becoming a charge to pay for years of unfunded pensions for non-jobbers.

    1. lifelogic
      February 28, 2012

      Exactly – doubtless the council will still use parking charges and tickets as a cash cow to fund their wages and pensions until the cow has been killed fully and all the shops are boarded up. They still charge rates on the boarded up shops too so then they just rob the landlord of his capital.

    2. Tedgo
      February 28, 2012

      I believe most Council Pensions schemes are funded. Where I live, Hampshire, the fund is £3.55 billion, it grew by some 8.3 % last year through investment.

  5. Disaffected
    February 28, 2012

    So the socialist Coalition is not doing a lot then. Leaving the same lefty councils to do as they please.

  6. Das_Beard
    February 28, 2012

    Sorry to say, but it appears that the posted link does not work.

  7. Bazman
    February 28, 2012

    Chris Grayling got a right hammering on Channel 4 News tonight with his work scheme. Virtually accused him of lying! Voluntary or not?You can volunteer not to be paid if you do not turn up for the scheme it seems. He just spluttered and did not know. What are all you anti BBC people going to do about this? Maybe Do we need the BBC? could tell us. What steps should be taken to make Channel 4 more right wing and tell the ‘truth’?

    1. lojolondon
      February 29, 2012

      Channel 4 is a commercial channel, so they can push any agenda they like. If the reporter wants to criticise his guest, that is his call.

      The BBC is funded by taxpayers and they have a DUTY to deliver original, fair, impartial, balanced information and entertainment.

      Clearly they fail on every count, are ‘not fit for purpose’ and should be cleaned up.

      When you look at the essential services that have already been privatised like energy supply, transport, mail and health services, privatising the BBC is an absolute no-brainer!

      1. Jonathan
        February 29, 2012

        Channel 4 is also funded by the tax payer and every news programme is required to be impartial (on all broadcasters) as part of the license agreement, something the BBC and Channel 4 News (especially John Snow) fail to uphold.

      2. Bazman
        February 29, 2012

        It’s a no brainer if you think these privatisations have been of benefit to the user. No. They are not customers except in your fantasies.

    2. Bob
      February 29, 2012

      I wonder how much money could be raised for the public purse by selling the BBC? Probably not much in relation to the untold billions that are poured into it year on year to provide a diet of spin spoon fed political propaganda from the EU and the Labour Party.

  8. waramess
    February 28, 2012

    Please tell me this is a spoof.

    1. Caterpillar
      February 28, 2012

      It does seem like one of JR’s spoof letters, but perhaps JR’s spoofs are just spot on, (my caps below);

      “a retail themed Red Tape CHALLENGE” – sounds like a management ice-beaker,

      “We have CHALLENGED key industry players” – one has to love this word,

      “concerns about the Retail Price Index (RPI) increase for 2012-13 business rates bills, and are therefore giving businesses the option of spreading the increase over three years” => you will pay eventually and it will be increasing at RPI not CPI

      Town Team COMPETITION [surely this should have been a challenge]=> £1m/12 => £228 per day for 1 year to turnaround a local high street!

      Reply THis one is from a named Minister, not from Roy Spendlove

  9. Iain Gill
    February 28, 2012

    hasnt he totally ignored all the input?

    hasnt the government just refused to do anything about the massive ICT visa problem?

    see a theme?

  10. zorro
    February 28, 2012

    ‘ Indeed, many of the recommendations you offer, as well as those submitted by respondents to your website, are covered in Mary Portas’ Review, particularly around regulation, access and parking, and the creation of ‘Town Teams’.’

    Correct me if I am wrong , but I seem to recall that there was a strong (majority?) call against any more regulation a la Portas way. The 28 (was it?) recommendations could have been cut substantially….I also cannot remember much support for ‘town teams’. It’s too depressing, I’m going to bed.

    Don’t worry about giving foreign nationals free access to AIDS related healthcare. We are assured by the government that this will not be a ‘pull factor’ to come to the UK and try and stay here for the free care. They also assure us that they have ‘tough measures to ensure that there is no abuse’ (TM) according to the Daily Telegraph just like reducing the net migration pledge/promise/cast iron guarantee (delete as appropriate)….Sleep well


    1. alan jutson
      February 29, 2012


      Yes we will soon become the HIV treatment centre of the World, fully funded by the NHS (TAXPAYER), even illegal immigants, failed asylum seekers are included it would seem.

      Could be up to £20,000 each for treatment according to press reports.

      Rest assured if they are not here already, they will be soon.

      Meanwhile a UK resident who has paid taxes all of their working life have a postcode lottery for some cancer drugs, and has to sell the family home for nursing home care.

      Really makes you wonder how some politicians think !!!

  11. lojolondon
    February 29, 2012

    John, for 13 years, Labour had a cosy relationship with the big supermarkets. Supermarkets promised to bring down inflation and ‘create’ employment. The government did all they could to enable supermarket reaching into every area of the UK, through planning regulations, and with cosy deals to invest in the infrastructure of local councils.
    Suddenly the public realised the high street was being destroyed, now I see the Labour government pretending to be on the side of the little man, the sole trader, no admitting that they CAUSED, as part of a grand strategy the very situation we are in.

  12. libertarian
    February 29, 2012

    The totally Conservative led Tunbridge Wells Borough Council ( against the wishes of the council officers and local public) has just removed planning permission for a rural farm shop which has been successfully trading ( with permission) for 5 years. The business employs a number of local people and ALL of the products on sale are sourced from small local producers.

    The main reason they cite for this travesty of socialist nonsense is , wait for it Mr Shapps……

    It provides unfair competition of the local shop and encourages people from outside the village to come and spend their money there.

    Ha ha ha ha The Conservative Party the biggest load of self interested hypocrites on the planet.

    Meanwhile my High St business in Maidstone ( Tory controlled council) has just had this. I wished to expand my business in the town by renting a second floor in my building to employ some more local people. They immediately put my business rates up from £116 pm to wait for it Mr Shapps £1170 per month AND levied a £600 pa business rate on my private parking space.

    Tories….the anti business party

    Politicians are the problem and not the solution

  13. Adam5x5
    March 1, 2012

    “The creation of town teams…”

    Surely just getting out of the way is a better idea, instead of creating yet another tax payer funded drain on the populace…

    But hey, what do I know, I only work for a living in the private sector and all my shopping is done at out of town shopping centres or online to avoid daylight robbery by the councils…

  14. Lindsay McDougall
    March 2, 2012

    Why do politicians have to be so BUSY on such matters. Practical measures are to keep high street and town centre parking charges at reasonable levels and to sell off surplus commercial premises for conversion to residences. These decisions can be taken at local level. Why do we a high powered review and a statement by government minister?

    1. Major Loophole
      March 3, 2012

      “Why do we a high powered review and a statement by government minister?”

      For show; to be seen doing something. The idea that all you need is a retail ‘specialist’ to diagnose the problem is naive.

      The big retailers/chain stores know perfectly well why they prefer modern, usually out-of-town retail units: they are bigger. A store usually requires one manager whether its 100 sq. metres or 1,000. Larger stores mean more stock and greater variety of goods. And as long as consumers want better value for money the greater efficiencies of a larger store and more competition will prevail over smaller old fashioned high street stores.

      This does NOT mean the high street is dead. Far from it. It does mean that the opportunity is there for independents to set up and thrive, PROVIDED rent and rate levels reflect the reduced retailing profitability inherent in less efficient operations. Landlords, including Council landlords, must accept lower rents and hence capital values. Council’s must set lower rates: they can’t have it both ways. Parking charges are an important factor in the mix but not the only one.

      Witney, in the PM’s constituency, is thriving on the Council’s commendable policy of free parking for shoppers. But then, Witney is growing too with high employment and modest (but still too little) levels of development: housing is still too expensive leaving people with less to spend in the shops. Now what was that relationship again between development, growth and economic prosperity?

      With apologies to Harry McClintock:

      “In the Big Rock Candy Grantland,
      There’s a land that’s fair and bright,
      And the Laws of Economics
      Are left out in the night.

      The consultants all collect their cheques
      As the ten point plans are laid,
      And parking charges set aside
      So the punters come and stay.

      The chain stores all want bigger shops
      As the small ones just don’t pay,
      The rates are high,
      The merchants cry,
      The little independents die,
      In the Big Rock Candy Grantland…”

Comments are closed.