Landlords to be forced to let out vacant retail units

The government plans to take radical action to ensure landlords let out retail units that have been vacant for longer than six months.

Otherwise the government will enable community groups and small businesses to take over boarded up properties, in a bid to revitalise high streets.

The powers will be introduced in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which will be announced in the Queen’s Speech next month.

Fashion retailers have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the closure of the likes of Debenhams and Topshop leaving a number of vacant properties on some high streets.

Indeed, one in seven properties currently stand empty according to the British Retail Consortium.

A government source told the Daily 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 welcomed the plans.

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.”

And Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, 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.”

The Conservatives have pledged to focus on “levelling up every area of the UK”, so regenerating derelict high streets up and down the UK could go some way to achieving that aim.

Comments 1

  1. More landlord bashing. This time it’s the commercial landlords. Retail units are boarded up and decaying as it is just not possible to run a viable business from them. So what form will this radical action take? Confiscation and then let out rent free? Landlords are pragmatists, they would be willing to compromise on rent but the truth of the matter is that even if no rent were charged these units would not be viable as long as business rates are charged. The areas where many of these units are located are in poorer communities that have been allowed to die. The bigger stores have gone, the banks and building societies have gone, proper restaurants and pubs have gone, libraries are closed, transport links are removed or reduced and crime and antisocial behaviour have risen. In short, any reason for people to visit the area and spend money has gone. Once one shop disappears and becomes a boarded up eyesore the area becomes less attractive and less visited creating a domino effect down the street.
    Every now and again a dilapidated unit will open up as a charity shop or foodbank (no business rates). The only new businesses that open up tend to be nail bars, fast food shops, car washes or barbers who apparently do seem to have a business model that makes them viable against the odds.
    Perhaps the next move is that anybody who has an empty house will be forced to rent it out to tenants not of their own choosing at rents set by others?

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