Launch of business forum aims to rejuvenate high streets

High streets must adapt to new consumer demands if they are to survive, the Government has warned small businesses.

Announcing the launch of the new Future High Streets Forum, local growth minister Mark Prisk said the high street needed to react to changes in consumer behaviour, which has recently seen stores such as Blockbuster and HMV go into administration.

The forum's launch follows recommendations made by Mary Portas in a review of UK high streets. The review identified 27 areas across the country that would benefit from the advice of retail experts on how to boost local business.

Businesses, councils, retailers and property experts will be brought together under the forum to better understand competition in high streets and to drive new ideas and policies.

Key points under discussion with the Future High Streets Forum include:

  • Relaxing planning restrictions to make it easier for pop-up shops to operate 
  • Encouraging councils to improve parking conditions in town centres
  • Helping small retailers improve their online presence 
  • Encouraging landlords to turn empty commercial space into residential properties.

Mark Prisk said: "It is clear that our high streets will need to change to prosper. There is already great work being done across the country to revitalise the town centres, but it needs to spread further faster."

British Retail Consortium (BRC) director general Helen Dickinson is a member of the forum. She said: "Successful town centres are the beating heart of our communities and essential to local economies. Many high streets are facing a real endurance test in these relentlessly tough times, and rising operating costs are making matters worse."

"The BRC has long campaigned for action to secure a successful evolution of our town centres and to make them safe, attractive and viable. We've set out clear steps for improving local trading environments and preserving and protecting local businesses."