The Committee's report set out a bold vision for the high street based on locally led strategies, developed with local communities and businesses at the centre, and reflective of evolving commercial and economic patterns.
Following the publication of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s response to the Committee’s report into the future of high streets and town centres, Chair Clive Betts MP said:
“It is welcome that the Government has broadly recognised the scale of the problem, and that they have taken on some of our suggestions such as reforms of Business Improvement Districts and enhancing the High Street Task Force that could help the high street. However, in too many areas they are unwilling to make the radical change required that reflects the realities of modern commerce, and gives shops on the high street a fighting chance.
“It is also clear that the current taxation system places an unfair burden on high street businesses, particularly compare to those online. We need a system that spreads the tax burden fairly, and suggested a range of options. The Government has too readily decided to stick to the status quo, rather than examining the range of radical options to the taxation system that we propose in order to save the high street which it simply dismisses as too challenging.
“It is equally disappointing that they have declined to pause the proposed permitted development rights. There is little point in empowering local authorities to develop plans that address the specific needs of their areas if they can be so easily circumvented.”
Key findings of the report
- High streets and town centres must adapt, transform and find a new focus in order to survive
- Business rates are stacking the odds against high street retailers. The Government must initiate reforms to provide meaningful relief to high street retailers, including giving consideration to proposals for an online sales tax to level the playing field
- Achieving large-scale structural change will require intervention led by the local authority, in collaboration with business and local communities, backed by funding and new powers from central government
- Local Plans are a key element of this. They must consider green space, leisure, arts and culture, health and social care services to create space that is the “intersection of human life and activity”
- Retailers must accept the need to adapt and do more to offer what online cannot, focusing more on personal interactions and convenience
- Landlords need to recognise the retail property market has changed and be more receptive to negotiating lease terms with retailers in financial difficulty – The Government should consider providing a conciliation service to facilitate negotiations between the parties.