Headlines: April 15th, 2009

The Government has unveiled a series of measures to help local authorities deal with the problem of empty town centre shops. The move has been welcomed by the Local Government Association which had called for councils to have more powers to prevent ‘clone towns from becoming ghost towns’.

The Government has also announced up to three million pounds to help communities to find creative ways to reduce the negative impact of empty shops. The new measures include special planning application waivers, standard interim-use leases, and temporarily leasing shops to councils so empty shops can be used for cultural, community or learning services.

The measures will be published in a practical guide ‘Looking after our Town Centres’ and new rules will be introduced soon to give extra protection to shops that serve the community such as local post offices and pubs. The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said: “Town centres are the heartbeat of every community and businesses are the foundation so it is vital that they remain vibrant places for people to meet and shop throughout the downturn.

The Chairman of the LGA, Margaret Eaton, said boarded up shops were a sad reflection of the recession and also formed a hotspot for anti-social behaviour. She added: “The best option is for new or existing businesses to move into empty premises. Where new occupants for a shop can’t be found, councils need to take the lead to stop our high streets sliding into decline. The millions of pounds spent resuscitating this country’s town centres must not go to waste during these bad times.”