I took a keen interest in the report published by retail guru Mary Portas this week: commissioned by the Prime minister she has looked at how we can help our high streets and market towns. I was keen to read her proposals and found myself agreeing with many of them.
Vacancy rates in market towns have doubled in the last few years as stores have closed down due to the economic downturn.
“I believe that our high streets can be lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to a community." Ms Portas says.
One of the strongest recommendations in the report was highlighting the importance of parking to market towns. Why when everyone s feeling the pinch will people pay expensive rates to park and shop in Hexham and Prudhoe when for many it's just as easy to go and shop for free at the Metrocentre or Asda? This an area where the council could make a real difference very quickly.
Northumberland Conservatives have launched their proposals for a Peoples Parking Pass which would give all residents in Northumberland a permit to park for free. Not only is this fair for our residents but it would be a huge boost to our small shops and market traders across the county as local people would be incentivised to shop locally.
It's a policy I hope the ruling Lib Dems on the County Council will adopt.