The state of Surrey Street and Church Street markets in Croydon are worse now than 12 months ago, when the area was awarded a £100,000 grant by the local government department as part of the Portas Pilot scheme, according to a report by the BBC.
Croydon was one of 12 towns chosen for funding under a scheme led by David Cameron’s retail guru, Mary Portas, which has proved to be controversial and divisive. Now, according to research from BBC Radio’s You and Yours programme, the scheme also appears to be unsuccessful.
According to the BBC, 10 of the 12 Portas Pilot towns have seen a fall in the number of occupied shop units. While vacancy rates have gone down in seven towns, more shops overall have closed than opened. In Croydon, the BBC research found more vacant shops than in May last year – which was just a few months after the riots of 2011.
The Department for Communities and Local Government, meanwhile, maintains that the pilots are breathing new life into the towns.
Croydon was not among the pilot towns featured in Portas’s Channel 4 television series, which finished last week. So far, the Croydon Town Team has managed to spend £5,000 on paint for a pedestrian underpass and £8,500 on a marquee and ovens for a baking competition staged on the doorstep on a new business which is owned by a former member of the Town Team committee.
The research commissioned for BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours shows there has been a loss of 95 shop units across the 12 Portas Pilots. Only two towns showed signs of improvement, with Bedminster and Margate adding units in the past year.
In total across all the schemes across the country, about 700 units closed, while fewer than 600 opened in their place. Units include cafes, banks and pubs as well as shops, while vacancy rates apply only to shops, the BBC said.
The research was carried out by the Local Data Company, who said that the figures suggest rapidly changing environments on the high street, presenting problems for shoppers confused by constant change, which makes them reluctant to return.
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- Mary Portas show lobbied government officials (guardian.co.uk)
- MP blames business rates for shops crisis (manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
- One in four high street shops to close, says report (scotsman.com)