The race to repair Britain’s riot-scarred high streets risks hijacking the review by the government’s retail tsar, and returning towns to an unsatisfactory status quo, industry leaders have warned.
Speaking ahead of a meeting next week with Mary Portas, the BRC told The Grocer it was vital her independent inquiry did not become dominated by the aftermath of this month’s destruction.
Portas’ High Street Review, which is due to report in November, has been tasked with finding ways to make high streets safer and the focus of the talks next week has predictably been expanded to take the riots into account.
However, the BRC warned that they could detract from more fundamental issues facing town centres. “There’s a danger that it becomes all about recent events and simply restoring towns to what they were before the riots,” said a spokesman.
“There’s no doubt this is a very serious issue, but many towns were in trouble before and have problems that go back for a number of years.”
At next week’s meeting, BRC director of business Tom Ironside and director general Stephen Robertson will urge Portas to take on board its calls for more and cheaper parking, tax incentives and more co-ordinated town planning.
They will also discuss a new BRC report claiming out-of-town shopping centres are being hit as hard as town centres by the economic situation and reiterate calls for the Portas review not to favour independent high street shops at the expense of large retailers.
“Safety in towns is one of the key things that we have raised and security for retailers is vital but there are other long-term issues that we will be calling to be addressed,” said Ironside.
The BRC estimated this week that 11,000 retail staff had been affected by the riots and that 7,500 trading hours had been lost.
The overall bill for repairs is expected to top £200m and the government has announced a £20m retail fund for shops.