Mary Portas Review and its implications for Newport

The Save Newport Campaign has given an initial welcome to the Mary Portas Independent Review on the future of ‘the High Street’ across England commissioned by PM David Cameron earlier this year and which is published today after two previous delays.

Some of Mary Portas’  recommendations  have been widely trailed: she clearly highlights the damage to high streets by out of town “shed” developments which offer free parking and everything in one place clone town shopping – and the need for councils to have a meaningful dialogue with retailers and residents about their High Street and its role in local communities.

Newport, Shropshire is facing a huge out-of-town  ‘mega-superstore’ application  on green field land with 530 car parking spaces and its own petrol filling station plus two other out-of-town applications for Audley Avenue and Mere Park respectively:  thus the Review is important not only  in its  emphasis on the critical roleof the High Street  as provider of both retail and services outlets but also of the irreplaceable ‘social cohesion’  that it brings to Newport as a focal point where people can meet, where charities and other local groups engage with shoppers and where community celebrations take place. It binds the community together in giving ‘a sense of place’ and not just another faceless district centre of a bigger bland conurbation, such as Telford. Politicians take note – there were no summer riots in Newport!

Even Telford through its central area action plan has acknowledged the need for a ‘proper’ town hub which needs to offer  more than a soulless shopping mall surrounded by car parks.

So it is ironic that it has taken something like the Mary Portas Review to bring attention back to how important it is to  have a  vibrant High Street in Newport  both for the town itself and for  its rural hinterland. All Market Towns in England face this same challenge – to get politicians and planners alike to take the long term, sustainable approach rather than the ‘quick buck’ decision.

Local MP stands up for Newport’s High Street:

As to the out-of-town developments, Mr. Mark Prichard, the local MP, has stated in a letter just issued to the Secretary of State Eric Pickles, that the schemes are ‘premature’ in that the people of Newport and the rural communities should be given an opportunity to have a real say in what they want for Newport under the provisions of the Localism Act which is due to come into force around April next year. The sheer volume of all the applications for Newport (7 in total!) should mean that the Telford & Planners should take them in the round and consider the overall impact and implications for  local infrastructure  – as well as the “do or die” impact on  the traditional market town itself. All over the country market towns are struggling with the after effects of ill-thought out planning decisions and boarded up shops, tumble-weed in the High Street and  worklessness is what Newport  must NOT suffer.

Want to know more regardless of where you live?

If the Mary Portas’s Review has inspired you to want to have your say on the ‘mega-superstore’ and the other retail and housing applications for Newport then visit 3A High Street by 1pm on 17 December 2011 latest, where large copies of the plans are available to give an indication as to the size and details of the various out-of -town applications. Or look at www.savenewport.co.uk

As the Mary Portas Review has confirmed, those few traditional High Streets that are left in England are under severe pressure from the large shopping malls and out-of-town  ‘big 4 stores’ i.e. Sainsbury’s,Tesco, ASDA (owned by the huge US company Walmart) and Morrisons.  We already  have enough of them to satisfy everyone but we have only one traditional and beautiful Newport High Street, so do your bit to keep something that many towns have lost forever -keep Newport alive and write to T&W before Christmas and let them know your views.

As taxpayers we have all  paid for the Mary Portas Review so let’s  take its recommendations and intelligence seriously  in order to sustain our local communities.

 

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