‘Queen of Shops’ sent to save the high street

Mary Portas

Mary Portas has been drafted in to help small stores. Pic: constantpictures

Residents campaigning against the influx of betting shops in Deptford high street are to be joined in their quest for local retail independence by a high profile retail guru.

Mary Portas, the 48-year-old management consultant also dubbed the ‘Queen of Shops’, has been drafted in by the government to advise the Prime Minister on how to improve Britain’s beleaguered high streets.

Portas’ appointment will be good news to local campaigners who have been urging Lewisham council to quell the rising number of betting shops opening in areas such as Deptford.

Councils have limited powers to stop betting shops and other chain-stores opening in places that are already saturated with the same kind of outlet.

New Cross

New Cross is not yet filled with chain stores. Photo: Xixi Zheng

There are 13 betting shops in and around Deptford high street and locals are currently fighting an application by Betfred to open on the site of a former Halifax branch.

Anti betting-shop campaigns have also been started in Hackney.

Portas plans to increase support for local businesses and looks set to bolster the influence residents have within their local area.

She told The Grocer magazine: “We will be looking at the new shape of our high streets – something that is more social, with meeting spaces and diversity. We need a new business model.”

Chris Boddington, Cafe Crema. Photo: Xixi Zheng

Chris Boddington, chair of the New Cross Federation

Chris Boddington is chair of the New Cross Federation, which supports small businesses. He said if Mary Portas is to make a difference she will have to campaign against chains moving into the area.

“I think it can be effective if Government and local councils will stop rolling over for every big supermarket,” he said.

Mr Boddington, who is co-manager at New Cross vegetarian hangout Cafe Crema, said the New Cross Federation is trying to improve the environmental impact of local businesses.

“People always worry about saving the economy,” he said. “But we have to save the environment or we’ll have nothing at all.”

Additional reporting, pictures and audio interviews by Xixi Zheng

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