Gov to legislate for regeneration of High Streets

The UK government is set to hand new powers to local leaders aimed at regenerating High Streets and town centres.

The Levelling up and Regeneration Bill, expected to be unveiled in the Queen’s speech tomorrow, is targeting the regeneration of the UK’s High Streets, many of which have been hit hard by economic decline and the rise of internet shopping, with many shop units left empty.

The government’s proposed legislation will enable local leaders to force landlords to rent out commercial properties,with the aim of revitalising High Streets and restoring community pride as part of the government’s wider ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.

Under the plans, councils will be given greater powers to take control of buildings and repurpose them into new businesses, shared community spaces or housing.

The number of empty shopfronts has soared to 1 in 7 according to figures from the British Retail Consortium, rising to 1 in 5 in the North East.

New compulsory rental auctions will ensure that landlords auction shops that have been vacant for over a year to prospective tenants, putting buildings to good use.

Announcing the measures ahead of tomorrow’s Queen’s speech, which sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the coming months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “High Streets up and down the country have long been blighted by derelict shopfronts, because they’ve been neglected, stripping opportunity from local areas.

“We are putting that right by placing power back in the hands of local leaders and the community so our towns can be rejuvenated, levelling up opportunity and restoring neighbourhood pride.”

Councils will also be given greater powers to drive regeneration through Compulsory Purchase Orders, making it quicker and easier for councils to use powers to deliver much needed local housing and infrastructure.

Compulsory Purchase Orders allow acquiring authorities, including local public bodies, to acquire buildings without needing the consent of the owner for public benefit.

This may include acquiring land to build social housing or other regeneration projects.

Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, said:“By empowering local communities to rent out shops which have sat empty for a year or longer, we will end the scourge of boarded up shops that have blighted some of our great towns across the country for far too long.

“These measures will breathe new life into High Streets, transforming once-bustling communities into vibrant places to live and work once again and restoring local pride as we level up across the country.”

Councils will also be given greater powers to drive regeneration through Compulsory Purchase Orders, making it quicker and easier for councils to use powers to deliver much needed local housing and infrastructure.

Compulsory Purchase Orders allow acquiring authorities, including local public bodies, to acquire buildings without needing the consent of the owner for public benefit. This may include acquiring land to build social housing or other regeneration projects.

Pavement licensing red-tape will be permanently scrapped, the government said, freeing up businesses to serve food al fresco to guests on pavements, as they did during the pandemic.

The UK Government is also providing £1.7bn of temporary business rates relief in 2022-23 for up to 400,000 retail, hospitality and leisure properties to support the High Street.

Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, said:“By empowering local communities to rent out shops which have sat empty for a year or longer, we will end the scourge of boarded up shops that have blighted some of our great towns across the country for far too long.

“These measures will breathe new life into High Streets, transforming once-bustling communities into vibrant places to live and work once again and restoring local pride as we level up across the country.”

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