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Former Iceland boss Bill Grimsey has accused Government-appointed retail adviser Mary Portas of creating a flawed plan to regenerate the UK’s high streets.
Mr Grimsey, alongside his team, has been given the thumbs up by Asda boss Andy Clarke, and is set to present his alternative plan to the three main political parties in the autumn.
The key problem with the Portas report was it was too centred on retail, he said, while his own plan will feature shops as just a small part of town centres, with the main focus on housing, education, leisure and art.
He told Retail Express: “Mary Portas and the Government asked how do you save the high streets in town centres from a retailing perspective, and that is the wrong place to start.
“Our alternative review looks at the structural changes taking place in the retail environment. The future for town centres is not dependent on the retailing proposition as a destination.”
Ms Portas’s own recommendations were not radical enough, particularly around reforming business rates, he said.
He added: “If you were HMV in 1990, you were a very big brand. If you knew that in 23 years’ time you were going to go bust because technology overtook you, what would you have done differently?
“The same applies to c-stores. Think about technology and the changes that are coming.”
Ms Portas, who has a history of spats with Mr Grimsey, hit back, accusing him of not reading her report properly.
She defended the work of towns such as Helston in Cornwall and Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, one of the ‘Portas pilot’ towns that was handed £100,000 to transform its shops.
She said: “The Government has been slow to respond and I will continue to fight for policy change, such as exceptional sign-off on out-of-town retail developments, business rates, planning and parking.”
Mr Grimsey is the latest contender to try and revamp town centres, along with Ms Portas, the Women’s Institute and the Daily Telegraph.
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