Harrow defies economic gloom thanks to Portas Review
Recommendations implemented by the London borough of Harrow have helped the area to achieve economic growth throughout the last three years that has bucked national trends, according to the latest review.
Commissioned in 2011 on the back of a governmental investigation into the health of the nation’s high streets, The Portas Review -conducted by one of the UK’s leading authorities on retail branding, Mary Portas – denoted a list of proposals aimed at renewing Britain’s flagging retail centres.
In it, she highlighted specific advice and funding suggestions for towns in the UK, covering a broad spectrum of areas including business, property, legislation and recommendations.
Harrow Council took it upon themselves to act on many of Portas’ proposals, with figures released by the National Statistics Office this week showing striking economic growth in the borough, way above the national averages of 2009 to 2011.
Some of the recommendations Harrow implemented included slashing its business rates to a third of the national average, and setting up street markets and festivals to encourage revitalisation of its local commercial centres.
So far the measures have worked, with the number of active businesses in Harrow increasing by 7.7% between 2009 to 2011, and its vacancy rate falling to 4% at the end of 2012, - far lower than the London rate of 10% and the national average of 14%.
Harrow’s two main shopping centres, St Ann’s and St George’s, enjoyed a 2% increase in the number of visitors through its doors during the Christmas shopping season from the previous year - well above national trends.
The borough’s initiatives are now being used as an example for other UK councils to follow, exhibiting a clear cut approach on incentivising economic growth in their governing areas.
Commenting on this, housing minister Mark Prisk said: “I’m very pleased Harrow is starting to turn its high street around and making it the beating heart of the local community in the face of stiff competition from internet shopping and out-of-town centres.
“We are impressed at the response to the Portas Review. I want to see more councils looking at the recommendations.”
Harrow was found to be the fourth safest shopping destination in Britain in a report conducted by market analysts BNP Paribas Real Estate recently, further cementing the perceived success of the council’s initiatives.
Commenting on the positive impact the review has had, Harrow’s portfolio holder for regeneration and planning, Keith Ferry said: “We decided to make economic growth a top priority. We had already put in place various policies but the Portas Review was very useful as it had a lot of ideas like having street markets and music festivals.”