Declan’s Blog: The future of our High Streets

Last week saw the Government announcement of new powers for communities to regenerate high streets and fill empty shops, due to come into force by the summer. 

The powers will help councils to effectively “level up” high streets and tackle wide-ranging issues linked to long term closure of commercial premises. 

Empty premises can often become something of a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour.  If residents don’t feel safe in our high streets, footfalll continues to stay low and our hard pressed retailers will continue to struggle.  A new local authority power (High Street Rental Auctions), will be used to tackle the eyesore of empty commercial premises, renting them out to local businesses who want to use them.

Under the new powers, if a high street shop has been empty for over a year, High Street Rental Auctions will allow local leaders to step in and auction off a rental lease for up to five years.  The auction will open up with no reserve price, giving interested local businesses and community groups the opportunity to fill the empty space on the high street but at a competitive market rate.

In a bid to get High Street Rental Auctions up and running as soon as possible, the Government is planning to launch a new ‘trailblazer’ programme, which will allow it to work with a number of communities who are keen to lead the way.  A £2 million support fund will help to get things started during the summer.

Our high streets have changed forever but town centres will continue to play an important role.  At a local level, Stafford Borough Council is pressing ahead with ambitious plans to regenerate our County Town, with the acquisition of Guildhall Shopping Centre and the empty Co-op site on Gaolgate Street.  Independent traders in Stafford town centre had previously issued a “use us or lose us” warning to visitors, amid concerns about footfall.   

The future form of high streets will see more residential premises and a growth in town centre populations.  More people living in towns will help to support town centre retailers and help to generate a thriving night time economy.  If you would like to join the discussion on regeneration, feel free to get in touch:

On a completely separate note, can you please take 60 seconds to fill out our latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES).   QES is the UK’s longest independent business survey and is widely recognised by the likes of The Bank of England as a valuable check on how the economy is performing.   We need to get a good representation of business sectors and sizes.  Click here to open the QES and thanks for your time: