What might Mary Portas recommend for Wellington’s high street?

Giving you a rest from the ramblings of your usual blogger, today we welcome a guest writer in the guise of local councillor Mike Ion (he’s a Labour councillor, but note that similar contributions from councillors of other flavours are welcome!) So, over to Mike…

I think I quite like Mary Portas. She is a little scary in my view, but does tend to talk a good deal of common sense. Her recent review on the future of the high street makes interesting reading, especially if you live a small market town like Wellington.

Her report recognises the unique importance to communities of town centres and the need to intervene and re-invent them for the 21st Century. She is at pains to ensure that we should seek to learn from, not blame, the big out-of-town retailers. Her practical suggestions that each town establishes its own ‘Town Team’ is encouraging and Wellington, with its well established town partnerships is well placed to act on many of her other recommendations. For example:

  • Recommendation 10 calls on ‘town teams’  to focus on making high streets accessible, attractive and safe. The National Action for Market Towns Award winner in 2011 was Mold in Flintshire, which showcased its Mold Spring Clean. In addition to litter-picking, more than 80% of the town’s river was cleaned, bollards painted, benches refurbished and planters refreshed. All this activity made the Welsh market town more attractive for local residents, businesses and visitors alike. Impressively, it involved over 800 volunteers.
  • Recommendation 27 calls for more support for imaginative community use of empty properties through ‘Community Right to Buy’ – can I suggest we start with the vacant buildings on the Birmingham platform on Wellington Railway Station? If reused, empty shops can support new business and old, give space to creative industry and social enterprise alike, and add art, culture, community and fun to our high streets. It’s easy to use empty shops either for community projects or as hosts for ‘pop-up’ shops that fill retail space for the short term before something more permanent arrives.

Mary makes many more recommendations – 27 in total – and you can read her full report here. What next though? How do you think Wellington should respond to the Portas Review?

Mike is the Labour and Cooperative Party Member for College Ward on Telford & Wrekin Borough Council