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Landlords ‘could be forced to let out vacant high street shops’

Landlords 'could be forced to let out vacant high street shops'

Empty shops will get a new lease of life under a plan to revitalise high streets, according to the Daily Mail. Landlords will reportedly be forced to let out retail units that have been vacant for longer than six months under Government proposals.

It could allow community groups and small businesses to take over boarded-up properties that blight once thriving town centres, “hopefully returning them to their former glories”.

One in seven shops are said to be sitting empty according to latest figures from the British Retail Consortium. The north-east of England has the highest vacancy rate, with one in five closed.

The Mail said that under the plan, local authorities would be able to force landlords to rent out high street commercial properties through a Compulsory Rental Auction. After a short grace period for landlords to fill a shop, local authorities will be able to instigate an auction, inviting bids from interested parties.

Ministers hope this will reduce the number of boarded-up shops while creating new opportunities for local small businesses and community groups and helping increase footfall and spending in town centres. A government source told the Mail: ‘The Government’s mission to level up will breathe new life into these great towns and end the scourge of boarded- up shops sucking the soul out of once-bustling high streets.’

Business leaders and campaign groups have reportedly rallied behind the plan. Charlie Mullins OBE, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, said: ‘We cannot keep having our high streets looking like the day after the apocalypse. This will spark much-needed life back into our towns and cities.” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UK Hospitality, said: ‘We welcome these new proposals to rejuvenate empty properties, which can blight an area, stimulate innovation and accelerate economic growth and recovery.’

Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser Sacha Lord reportedly said: “Funding to repurpose empty outlets into retail, leisure or hospitality premises will not only aid town centre recovery but will encourage the public to shop local. This regeneration strategy has already worked in countless areas of Greater Manchester and I’m pleased that the Government has recognised that much-needed action is now required to support our high streets.”

Campaign group Save The High Street said the plans they would “turn the vacancy crisis into an opportunity for positive change”. Wetherspoon chief executive Tim Martin called for further support for high streets, urging the Government to address the tax imbalance between hospitality businesses and supermarkets. Mr Martin said: “Unless the Government grasps this nettle, its high street initiatives will be doomed to failure. Tax equality is the elixir that will encourage people to convert boarded-up shops into tax-paying employment-generating businesses.”

The Government’s strategy also aims to close the gap between rich and poor areas by 2030 through improving services such as education, broadband and transport.

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