Fund to tackle ‘unfair playing field’ between Potters Bar high street and online businesses
PUBLISHED: 12:05 19 January 2019
Shops in Potters Bar are in a bid to receive funding to help them thrive and encourage people to shop on the high street rather than online.
Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden has written to Hertsmere Borough Council supporting a bid for new funding through the Government’s £675 million Future High Streets Fund.
The fund aims to support local councils to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future, protecting local independent shops.
Mr Dowden said: “High streets face severe pressure from changing technology and shopping habits. It’s an issue that has been raised with me many times by residents and local businesses.
“Customers are now much more likely to buy items online, with 20 per cent of all UK retail purchases being made online last year. Equally, people are increasingly making a large number of small, specific shopping trips. “All this reduces average footfall along the high street, impacting businesses.”
The Future High Streets Fund is part of a wider package of Government measures to support high streets, which include cutting business rates by a third for small companies from April 2019, reforming planning measures and strengthening community assets.
Peter Varnavas, owner of Precious Soles shoe shop in Darkes Lane, said: “Rate increases are crippling, especially as we are always battling against online sites. Anything that can be done to assist us in keeping our rates down is a big plus.
“People will come in, get measured and then try and see if they can buy online unfortunately. It’s not everyone, as people value the service that we can give as we are more specialised, but it still happens.
“It feels like an unfair playing field that you can have a business online with no rent and no rates. We are trying to keep going and keep a vibrant high street.”
For high streets to thrive, Mr Dowden said town centres need a wide choice of retail services and good transport links, as well as well-designed retail and office space.
He said: “Alongside the delivery of Oyster, this type of wider regeneration is something we now need in Potters Bar and its something I will continue to campaign for.”