Ash­ley’s straight talk­ing points the way to rein­vig­o­rat­ing our high street

Midweek Visiter - - Southport Bid -

WHEN re­tail boss Mike Ash­ley’s ap­peared be­fore the hous­ing, com­mu­ni­ties and lo­cal gov­ern­ment se­lect com­mit­tee last week he was in typ­i­cally com­bat­ive mood.

Para­phras­ing his com­ments, he was ba­si­cally say­ing that the main­stream high streets are al­ready dead and it’s all down to the in­ter­net.

The ques­tion, he said, is what can be done to save the vast mi­nor­ity (and by that we in­clude lo­cal high streets such as South­port).

Dur­ing his ex­am­i­na­tion by the com­mit­tee he pro­posed a number of rec­om­men­da­tions some of which fall within the re­mit of lo­cal author­i­ties.

They in­clude more park and ride schemes and free park­ing.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions such as a re­form of busi­ness rates and in­tro­duc­ing a new sales tax on on­line re­tail­ers can only be im­ple­mented at a na­tional level.

So there’s an im­por­tant role for gov­ern­ment.

The pri­vate sec­tor has a part to play too.

Bricks and mor­tar re­tail­ers, those with a phys­i­cal pres­ence on the high street, can look at “click and col­lect” pro­mo­tions, for ex­am­ple, as one way of get­ting shop­pers back into stores.

Pri­vate sec­tor land­lords need to take a long hard look at their prop­erty rental strate­gies.

Res­i­dents, too, can do more to sup­port their high street by sup­port­ing their lo­cal in­de­pen­dents.

And Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­tricts have a vi­tal role to play in bring­ing ev­ery­thing (and ev­ery­one) to­gether.

So, solv­ing the is­sues fac­ing the high street is a job for ev­ery­one: the pub­lic sec­tor, the pri­vate sec­tor, land­lords, and all of us.

To make it hap­pen our high streets need in­vest­ment.

Lo­cal author­i­ties will say that the in­vest­ment they put into pro­mot­ing their high streets needs to be bal­anced against the in­vest­ment that has to go into other front­line ser­vices such as adult so­cial care.

Go­ing back to Mike Ash­ley’s com­ment on High Streets in gen­eral.

Our high street (and by that we mean the town cen­tre) is not dead. It’s not even close. It might not be very well at the mo­ment, and is now in need of some ten­der lov­ing care.

But it can and will get bet­ter.

There’s a strong part­ner­ship al­ready in place: the BID and Sefton Coun­cil are com­mit­ted to mak­ing the town bet­ter.

We need to bring ev­ery­one else along with us.

Mike Ash­ley put it bluntly to a Com­mons com­mit­tee, call­ing for more park and ride, and free park­ing; pro­mot­ing click and col­lect. He has also man­aged to knock down store rents

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