HTF Director to lead examination of Mary Portas High Street Review and retail revivification in historic town centres

A director from the historic built environment sector is to chair an event that will look at the impact of changing retail patterns in our historic town centres.

Dr Noël James, who heads up the Historic Towns Forum, is to lead a one day session on March 23 that will examine the practicalities and implications behind the Mary Portas High Street Review. The Review was carried out under the direction of the Department of Business, Innovation, Skills (BIS) and looks to address increasing issues within retail on the high street.

The event, called ‘Retail, the High Street Review, and the revivification of historic cores’, will be run by the Historic Towns Forum (HTF), of which Noël is Director, with significant input from English Heritage, and will be co-sponsored by Bircham Dyson Bell, a leading legal firm which advises English Heritage.

Noël said: “The Portas Review has split opinion among those who work in retail and our town centres. It is vital that local authorities, conservation, construction, planning and urban design professionals and key regional stakeholders all understand the impact it will have and how it will make a difference to the way we view retail activities moving forward. For the HTF this is particularly relevant in historic cores where there is often a difficulty or sensitivity in finding sensitive retail solutions for historic high streets, especially where they are in conservation areas or have high concentrations of listed buildings. We aim to show how historic cores can accommodate successful new retail developments and to offer solutions for existing historic cores.

“The HTF is in place to help encourage collaboration between local authorities and professionals working in the historic built environment, and provide linkages, so the Portas Review and any links to the historic high street are clearly key concerns for us. We’re very grateful for the support of organisations such as Bircham Dyson Bell as they allow us to continue this work and ultimately ensure the creation and conservation of environments that the entire community can enjoy.”

Speakers from the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG), Bircham Dyson Bell, Association of Town Centre Management, VisitEngland, English Heritage, CgMs, Land Securities, CORD Ltd, +Plus Urban Design, Historic Towns Forum, British Parking Association, Local
Government Association, and Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners will also be speaking at the event.

“The combined experience of 25 years working with public and private sector bodies in the historic built environment has equipped the HTF with a deep understanding of how different organisations approach the implementation of design and planning in the retail sector. Putting this experience into use means that we can help to facilitate our members’ understanding of the Portas Review and its associated implications.

 “Assisting local authorities and other local stakeholders to make these areas understandable to their communities will enable HTF and partners to make valuable contributions to local placemaking. Working with private sector organisations as well as the public sector will, in turn, mean that they have a greater appreciation of the issues involved with changing planning processes.”

‘Retail, the High Street Review and the revivification of historic cores’ is to be held at Bircham Dyson Bell, 50 Broadway, London, and SW1 H0BL on March 23. Those interested in attending should see the following link: or contact Helen Johnson, Marketing and Communications, Historic Towns Forum on or 0117 975 0459.