Appeal to Mary, queen of shops

TRADERS whose street was voted the best in Britain for shopping have called on the Government’s new ‘high street czarina’ to visit their town and see the problems they face first-hand.

Business leaders in Alnwick say they want to talk to retail expert and television presenter Mary Portas about key issues such as parking charges, high council rates and competition from out-of-town stores.

It follows their victory last week in the Google Street View Awards, which heralded Bondgate Within and its surroundings as being the best shopping street in the country.

But they say the award doesn’t reflect the inherent day-to-day difficulties faced by small businesses, whose contribution was championed by Google.

Portas, the star of BBC’s Mary Queen of Shops and Channel 4’s Secret Shopper, has been appointed by the Government to lead an independent review into how to create more diverse high streets, with a particular focus on ways to increase independent retailers.

She will also consider how to deal with vacant shops, visiting areas across England before reporting back to ministers by the autumn.

Carlo Biagioni, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “We would like Mary to visit Alnwick, especially since we won the award, to see for herself just what we are up against.

“We would like her to raise the issue of parking charges imposed by local councils, as we know this is having a major impact on town centres like ours.

“The level of service we receive in return for our very high business rates is also something we’d like her to include in her report to the Government. These are important issues which hopefully she can help address in her new role.”

The Gazette contacted Mary Portas’ office, but no one was available for comment.