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Communities should take ownership of vacant shops, urges report

Communities should be able to take control of vacant high street shops, according to a new report from Power to Change.

The report, Take Back the High Street: Putting communities in charge of their own town centres, argues that the response to the UK’s retail collapse must include greater community ownership of commercial properties.

The charitable trust says how the ‘era of mass retail-dominated high streets is over,’ and calls for a new, more rooted and more sustainable model – one which turns high streets into genuinely civic spaces and gives communities themselves greater ownership and influence over their own town centres.

The report argues that greater community ownership of high street properties could lead to many fewer empty shops, compared to ownership by private-sector interests such as real estate companies and overseas investors.

Other statistics included in the report were shops owned by overseas investors are more than twice as likely to be vacant as shops owned by the public sector and property companies own one in four of all empty shops, and overseas investors own one in five; whereas the public sector and social sector own around one in ten each.

Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change, said: ‘Mass store closures by big retailers are coming thick and fast, and each one is another blow for hard-pressed towns around the country. No one should be under any illusion – the big chains aren’t coming back to the high street, because we simply don’t shop that way any more.

‘It’s not all bad news, though. This is a moment of transition, and a chance to reimagine high streets as centres for civic life – as places not just to shop, but to live, to meet, to work and to interact.

‘High streets can be vital sources of meaning which allow people to identify with the places where they live. But to make this a reality, we have to put our trust in communities to shape their own town centres.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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