Force high street landlords to rent out empty premises and release 58,000 shops
Almost 13,200 shops are ripe for rent in the North with 650,000 jobs have been lost in the UK’s retail sector over the past five years as premises close
Image: BerkshireLive – Grahame Larter)
Forcing landlords to rent out empty high street shops could bring up to 58,000 premises back into use, a think tank has said.
Analysis by the centre-right Onward group found rising vacancy rates meant there were around tens of thousands of empty shops across the UK.
In the North, almost 13,200 were empty, only slightly less than the 13,500 premises in London, despite the North having fewer shops overall.
It could also see up to 9,000 shops brought back into use in the Midlands, 3,000 in Scotland and 2,700 in Wales.
New figures show that almost 650,000 jobs have been lost in the UK’s retail sector over the past five years.
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Onward’s director Will Tanner said the figures demonstrated the impact that Government proposals to hold compulsory rent auctions could have.
Mr Tanner, a former Downing Street adviser under Theresa May, said: “Empty shops are a blight on high streets right across the country.
“They aren’t only a very visible sign that the local economy is in dire need of levelling up, they are also a blow to civic pride.
“Any tenant is better than no tenant at all, so the Government is right to be taking steps to address this problem by forcing commercial landlords sitting on vacant shops to make them available to the community.”
Large commercial property owners such as financial institutions and overseas investors have contributed to long-term vacancies in British high streets.
Graham Young / BirminghamLive)
These types of owners account for half of all empty properties in the UK as they had little incentive to accept lower rents, according to the report.
Industry experts are calling for caution from the Government over business rates levels next year in order to protect the future of high streets.
The Centre for Retail Research said that 645,204 retail jobs have been lost and 72,580 stores closed during the five years since 2017.
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This included 105,727 jobs lost last year as the continuation of the furlough scheme kept losses below previous years.
The stark figures come as high street firms face a significant increase in business rates after benefiting from tax breaks during the pandemic.