UK business

Jim Pickard

Ministers have been urged to consider imposing severe restrictions on new out-of-town retail developments to save town centres against a backdrop of mass closures of high street shops.

David Cameron and Mary Portas

The radical suggestion was first put forward nearly a year ago by Mary Portas, the government’s retail tsar, in a review into how to stem the decline of Britain’s small shops.

The government has accepted many of the report’s 28 recommendations, including setting up a Distressed Retail Property Taskforce that will be unveiled on Monday to combat growing numbers of boarded-up shops.

Yet ministers shied away from her idea that all out-of-town applications should automatically be called in by ministers.

Chris Wade, chief executive of the charity Action for Market Towns, urged ministers to revisit the idea. “That was quite a bold recommendation, but it was never accepted,” he said. “We would want to see that happen.”

For now, the government has reaffirmed its previous “town centre first” policy in its recently condensed national planning policy framework – namely that retailers should only be able to consider edge-of-town or out-of-town locations if town centre options are not possible. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Is the government in danger of handing over its reputation for being pro-business to Labour?

William Hague’s message in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph that businesses should “work harder” to promote growth was certainly bold.

At a time when the economy is stagnating and the government’s strategy is increasingly being questioned, turning round and blaming the sector of the economy you’re relying on to turn that round seems like a reckless strategy.

Before we get on to why it’s not a good idea to blame business for not supporting growth, let’s mention why Hague has a point:

  1. The govt is implementing the cuts programme many business groups have supported, and is sticking to it.
  2. Corporation tax is low and getting lower – on its way down to 20 per cent.
  3. Embassies around the world are pushing UK trade as their top priority, and the prime minister has taken huge business delegations on state visits with him on several occasions.

 Read more