Pub­lic buy­outs can end blight of empty shops

Daily Express - - NEWS - By Mark Reynolds

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.”

Pic­ture: AL­BANY

Cor­po­ra­tions have a far worse record with own­ing empty units than the pub­lic sec­tor

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