Public buyouts can end blight of empty shops
STRUGGLING high streets can be saved by community ownership rather than private sector investors.
Researchers found that local people should be “empowered” to own more high street properties.
Analysis found that in the 22 busiest shopping areas in the UK, stores owned by overseas investors were twice as likely to be vacant as those owned by the public sector, said charitable trust Power to Change.
Just 6.8 per cent of units owned by the social sector were vacant and 4.5 per cent of those owned by the public sector. This compared with 9.2 per cent for real estate firms, 9.6 per cent for overseas investors, 11.9 per cent for institutions like pension funds, and 13 per cent for investment management schemes.
Chief executive Vidhya Alakeson said: “We have to put our trust in communities to shape their own town centres. This is a chance to reimagine high streets as centres for civic life.
“Greater community ownership of high street properties would lower the number of empty shops and boost the economy.
“We’re calling on the Government to back communities so they can own more high street properties.”
The report calls for:
●A new right to buy so that communities themselves can more easily acquire neglected high street units and even force their sale.
● £250million to support community buyouts over five years, taken from the new Towns Fund.
● Increased support for neighbourhood plans aimed at revitalising high streets.
The Daily Express is backing retailers with our Save Our High Streets crusade.
Community-owned assets, including on the high street, contribute £220million to the UK economy.
Three-quarters are said to be in good financial health, and community businesses have a survival rate of 94 per cent or more. James Child, at analysts EG, said: “Real estate investment trusts and overseas investors are struggling to re-fill empty stores.
“Yet local authorities, the social sector and individuals have some of the lowest vacancy rates.
“This suggests these groups are more active in terms of securing new tenants.”
Corporations have a far worse record with owning empty units than the public sector