Mary Portas’ high street review

Shoppers have their say.

A lack of affordable parking, internet shopping and business rates are killing the high street, according to shoppers in Honiton.

A recent review of Britain’s high streets by retail guru Mary Portas, which was commissioned by the Government, concluded that cutting regulations for traders and having a national market day, as well as affordable parking, could stave off any further decline.

The government has published research showing that a third of high streets were “de-generating or failing”.

The Portas Report has been welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has urged central and local governments to take action.

David Shephard, Devon regional chairman of the FSB, said: “It is vital that the Government and councils take note of these recommendations – in particular that the provisions in the new National Planning Policy Framework are strong enough to provide the protection needed, since there has been a notable shift towards out of town retail developments in the last 10 years.

“If no action is taken, the trend is set to continue.”

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He added: “The lack of affordable town centre parking is driving trade away from the high street to out of town retail sites.

Mr Shephard has welcomed calls to review business rates, which he said would help attract and retain small retailers.

And, it seems most shoppers in Honiton agree with these findings, although some feel the town’s high street offers a vibrant shopping experience and is not being killed off.

David Darlow, of Honiton, said: “Our High Street is being killed off – there is nothing here.

“When I first moved here, Honiton had a nice little high street but, in that eight years, the established shops have gone.

“We shouldn’t have to pay for parking and that stops people shopping in High Street as they go where they can park for free rather than come into town.

“The Government should lower business rates for a start, so shops can afford to stay here.”

His wife Gill added: “We have been overtaken by charity shops.

“The parking does need to be sorted out.

“There are no shops for younger people in the town.”

Katie Greenway, 25, of Sidmouth, said: “The high street is OK, but the parking charges are way too high.

“Online shopping is not helping our high streets, especially as you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home.”

Lisa Moran, 33, of Honiton, said: “There is not much here for younger people, which could put some young shoppers off.

“Not all people go online – I would rather come out and see things for myself.”

Jill Nix, 75, of Honiton, said: “I think High Street is lovely.

“Shoppers like to see the variety of shops.

“As for parking, we should have pay on exit because you can take as long as you like.

“There is always something to come out to High Street for – it’s thriving.”

The findings have also been praised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England which is urging the Government to seize the opportunity to make changes.