Labour turns to Queen of Shops Mary Portas for latest bid to revive high streets

Labour is reviving a 10-year-old plan by “Queen of Shops” Mary Portas to breathe new life into Britain’s high streets.

Under proposals unveiled tonight, the party would hand councils new powers to revamp disused stores which have been vacant for at least 12 months.

It would also axe Government plans to make it easier for greedy developers to turn empty high street shops into cheap homes.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds believes the moves are vital to kickstarting the post-pandemic recovery in town, village and city centres.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds will make a speech at University College London

Empty shops could be taken over by councils under the plan

In a boost for the Mirror’s High Street Fightback campaign, Ms Dodds will tell the Institute of Global Prosperity at the University College London: “Britain’s high streets are at the heart of local communities.

“It is not just a string of shops and post offices, it’s a place that people want to have pride in.

“The high street goes to the heart of Labour’s vision to make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in.

“However, the Conservatives have presided over a decade of decline in Britain’s high streets that has left our economy insecure and the foundations of our society weakened.

“Labour’s plan would help secure the future of the high street.

More shops have been closing during the pandemic

Mary Portas - What Britain Buys
She is known as a retail expert

“It would give local communities a proper stake in their town centres, support new businesses to open up on our high streets and help rebuild our economy post-pandemic.”

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Under the “empty shops orders”plan to seize empty commercial properties, councils would be allowed to charge rent after revamping a shop and bringing it back into use.

Once the cost of repair and renovation work has been recouped, rent collected would pass to the property owner.

Labour credits self-styled Queen of Shops Portas for the plan.

The TV presenter and retail expert made a similar recommendation to government almost a decade ago after being commissioned to carry out a review by then Prime Minister David Cameron.

David Cameron and Mary Portas (pic: Getty)
David Cameron asked Portas to investigate how to revive high streets. She reported in December 2011

One of her recommendations was for “new powers for councils to enter and upgrade when landlords are negligent”.

Her report said: “Councils can already take over the management of long-term privately owned empty homes.

“They should be able to do the same for empty shops on the high street, with ‘Empty Shop Management Orders’.

“Local authorities could then enter and upgrade strategic properties that have been left empty.

Keir Starmer at the Labour Party's London Headquarters answering questions sent in by Sunday Mirror readers.
Keir Starmer will visit Crawley on Thursday

“They could manage them, rent them and maybe even use the frontage for advertising as a way to generate extra revenue, just as the shopping centres do.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer will visit Crawley, West Sussex, on Thursday to discuss the proposals with local leaders.



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