England’s high streets are at risk of becoming ‘ghost towns’ unless urgent action is taken to fill empty shops, according to local Government chiefs.
According to figures published last week by the Local Government Association, four out of five councils are reporting an increase in empty properties in town centres and two thirds of those councils say empty properties are having a significant or moderate impact on their high streets.
The LGA is calling on the Government to grant councils the power to take over empty shops once they have been vacant for three months and where landlords are failing to take reasonable steps to find a new tenant.
The Government is also being urged to reduce VAT on the efurbishment of empty shops to 5% to encourage businesses to move into them.
Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, warns that empty shops “become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and drag down the whole feel of an area.”
Commenting on the environmental impact of allowing stores to remain empty, Eaton commented: “If ever there is an image that symbolizes the times we are in, it is desolate town centres with rows of empty shops where once there were small local retailers, a Woolworths or a Zavvi. Decisive action must be taken to stop our high streets turning from clone towns into ghost towns.”