New plans to tackle empty retail units on the high street are expected to be revealed as part of the government’s Levelling Up Agenda, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.
A government source told the paper that the upcoming Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will give local authorities greater powers to address high street shops that have lain empty for over six months.
Plans aim to help rejuvenate high streets which have seen numerous closures due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with stores such as Topshop and Debenhams closing their doors for good, and will see commercial landlords compelled to bring stores back into use.
Proposals will compel commercial landlords and owners of disused retail spaces to rent out shops through a Compulsory Rental Auction that will allow community groups and smaller businesses to take over units. Local authorities will be able to step in after a short grace period to invite bids for units where property owners are unable to fill the vacancies themselves.
Key figures in the retail and hospitality sectors have welcomed the government’s plans for empty high street shops. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser Sacha Lord 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.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UK Hospitality, commented:
“We welcome these new proposals to rejuvenate empty properties, which can blight an area, stimulate innovation and accelerate economic growth and recovery.”
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is set to be formally announced in a Queen’s Speech expected for some time in June 2022.