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Government acts to help high streets after Mary Portas report
8:00am Thursday 26th July 2012 in Altrincham
TRAFFORD’S council leader, Matt Colledge, says Government plans to revitalise high streets will boost their efforts to breathe new life into Altrincham.
Ministers are cutting red tape to make it easier for traders to move into empty premises and open so–called ‘pop-up’ shops.
They have acted after television retail expert Mary Portas drew up a report last year looking at how to tackle the decline of high streets.
The Government proposals were revealed just days before the Altrincham Town Centre Action Plan was launched yesterday (Wednesday) – a blueprint for the town’s future.
Cllr Colledge, who is also the chairman of Altrincham Forward – the group that has drawn up the action plan – said: “I welcome the Government’s plans as they feed directly in to the work Altrincham Forward is doing.
“We have plans to encourage new shops in to the heart of our town centre but we are also realistic about the uses of vacant shop units outside of the immediate centre, in that they may never return as shops and we need to consider them for other purposes such as residential, office or for community use. Freeing up red tape will certainly help here.
“Pop up shops for Altrincham are only part of the transition for our town, it’s not where we want to end up. In the long run our plan for Altrincham seeks to ensure that such will be the demand for space by excellent independents and quality national retailers there simply won’t be the need for pop up shops. I recognise we have some way to go but an area like Altrincham must aim high.
“As for my message to Government, your initiative is welcome. However I urge Government to tackle the issue of business rates next if it truly wants to give the support to businesses that will see a return to people setting up in our towns and villages again.”
Rob Downes, a policy advisor at the Forum of Private Business, said: “Empty shops lead to more empty shops – what business wants to start up in a boarded up ‘ghost town’?
“Leaving vacant units to rot is just commercial vandalism so ditching red tape that keeps shops boarded up has to be welcomed.
“Now it is up to local authorities to help attract entrepreneurs to invest in towns like Altrincham, which have lived in the shadow of the Trafford Centre for too long.”
The Government initiative will make it easier for people to rent empty premises and set up temporary businesses. Retailers would have up to two years to apply for planning permission – the average cost is £1,245 – instead of having to do so immediately.
The Altrincham Town Centre Action Plan aims to make the town centre a 'community facility', which people will enjoy visiting and spend time relaxing in.