The proposals would scale back the red tape that causes shop owners costly delays securing planning permission, over £1200 on average, before a disused shop can be used for a different purpose. Landlords would instead be free to temporarily change the use of an empty shop for two years, something currently not automatically permitted.
Experts say high street footfall has dropped two per cent on last year while the national high street vacancy rate remains at eleven per cent. Mr Pickles thinks empty properties are a wasted economic opportunity spoiling towns and attracting anti-social behavior.
Minsters believe this deregulation can help reinvigorate the high street by opening up more affordable places for entrepreneurs to launch start-up businesses, which in turn will re-energise local economies, end the blight of boarded up shops and help landlords meet property costs. Standard temporary leases are also available making it simpler to agree.
For example two young entrepreneurs in Willesden Green were able to turn a 15 year vacant building into a pop-up boutique, called Roses and Strings, selling handcrafted gifts and accessories after agreeing a special £250 a month deal with the landlord.
The Government has committed over £80 million to provide start-up loans for young entrepreneurs, which could create over 30,000 new businesses. The steps being highlighted today will make it easier for start-ups to find low-cost stores to set up in.
A new guide also published today shows how use of high street areas can help attract customers. Re-imagining urban spaces to help revitalise our high streets identifies ways to lure shoppers into town by making it a more social experience, as recommended by Mary Portas. Ideas include removing street clutter for pedestrians, more street stalls and pop-up shops as well as attractions like pavement cafés, play areas, outdoor libraries or street entertainment.
Eric Pickles said:
"Shopping habits are changing and the high street must respond. The trip to town needs to be worthwhile. In just the same way as the cinema offers a better movie going experience than TV the high street needs to come up with ways to give it an edge over internet deals and out of town shopping centres.
"Leaving empty shops to rot is a wasted economic opportunity that spoils the town centre – that is why we are proposing to scrap the damaging red tape that is keeping so many boarded up. This change can unleash our young entrepreneurs to open pop-up shops and turn the high streets into an exciting start-up launch pad.
"Reclaiming dreary unused street space can breathe new life into high streets – by decluttering streets for pedestrians, creating a lively atmosphere with pavement cafes, pop-up shop spots and entertainment so they are more family friendly fun place to go."
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