Recent proposals in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday 10 May have shone a light on the future of the high street and the pressure on the Government to take steps over the large number of vacant commercial premises in towns and cities up and down the country.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has estimated that one in seven shops across Britain stands empty. The devastating effects of Covid have added to the many reasons for decline in the high street over the years, including the ongoing shift to online retail and higher business rates and rents.
With the aim of restoring high streets and local pride, the government has proposed, in its Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, to force commercial property left vacant for over a year to be placed in compulsory ‘rental auctions’ run by local authorities to have the premises let to the highest bidder. The aim would be that the successful bidder, either a company, charity or community group, would take over the premises. The proposals have faced criticism and the British Property Foundation has attacked the proposal as one of several ‘political gimmicks’, proposing town centre investment zones to facilitate public and private investment into neglected high streets. Others continue the calls for reform of the business rates system, which many consider long-overdue.
The Government’s proposals will no doubt face further examination over the coming months as the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is reviewed and with changes on the cards in the near future many commercial landlords and real estate advisors will be watching this area with interest.
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