Skip to main content

High Streets

Volume 543: debated on Monday 30 April 2012

I published the Government response to the Portas review on 30 March. We have accepted almost all Mary Portas’s recommendations, and added some of our own.

I am proud to champion Leyland’s bid to be a Portas pilot, which will focus just as much on invigorating community spirit as on invigorating the high street. Does my right hon. Friend agree that local town teams can best support the regeneration of the high street and our town centres through full engagement with every level of the community, as Leyland in my constituency has done?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There have been a remarkable 371 applications by town teams to become Portas pilots. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her incredible work, which will doubtless be noted in the Leyland Guardian when it is next published, and wish her every success.

Does the Minister agree that out-of-town shops can attract shoppers away from high streets? Will the Government consider introducing the opportunity for local authorities to impose car parking charges, even on privately owned car parks, for out-of-town shopping?

It is, of course, the case that the balance between out of town and town centre has a considerable impact. It is for local authorities to make those decisions. In the national planning policy framework, we set out a clear town centre first policy, but ultimately local authorities need to make decisions about parking. I strongly suggest to local authorities that it would be advantageous to them—Mary Portas backs up the point—to think carefully about the parking charges in town and concentrate on reducing those to make town centres more popular.

A useful tool to support high street shops and town centres is the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Act 2010. The Act was passed more than two years ago. Can the Minister let the House know when the regulations that support that excellent legislation are likely to be laid so that local communities can take full advantage of it?

I wonder whether the Minister agrees with me and Mary Portas that the clustering of betting shops in high streets is becoming a real problem. It means a lack of diversity in high streets and, in the case of Deptford high street, much antisocial behaviour. Why will the Government not give local authorities more and better powers to deal with that menace?

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right that the balance of shops is often very important. The Government said in our response to Mary Portas that we were carrying out a use class order review, which is ongoing. The right hon. Lady’s local authority, and those of all hon. Members, already have more options than they perhaps realise through article 4. They would certainly want to work with town teams to make the best possible progress.