The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has welcomed the announcement that TV retail guru Mary Portas is to carry out a UK government-backed review aimed at halting the “decline of the high street”.
Portas will look at the problem of empty shops and how to prevent the growth of “clone towns” dominated by chain stores.
Portas is due to present her findings in the autumn and NIIRTA has called upon the new Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland to invite her to Northern Ireland as part of her inquiry.
NIIRTA chief executive, Glyn Roberts, said: “Local shops and high streets in Northern Ireland matter to consumers who use the health of the high street as a barometer for the economy as a whole. Healthy, diverse high streets mean confident consumers and vibrant local shopping holds the key to economic growth and job creation. We welcome this independent review and urge her to address the tough questions about how to put high streets at the heart of recovery.
“We would urge our new DSD Minister Nelson McCausland, who has responsibility for town centres to invite Ms Portas to visit Northern Ireland to meet with him and local stakeholders as part of her enquiry.
“We will be urging the Government not to shy away from the controversial issues and to put in place a strategy that will robustly promote the high street at a crucial time”
“We need robust decisions on planning rules that are explicitly ‘town centre first’ preventing harmful out of town development, we need an approach to business rates that encourages retailers to invest in high streets and neighbourhood centres and we must promote diversity so that consumers have real choice now and in the long term.”