New powers to revitalise high streets and combat empty shops set for summer launch

The Government has unveiled new powers to help rejuvenate high streets by enabling local authorities to take control of empty shops and auction them off to local businesses and community groups.

These High Street Rental Auctions aim to tackle the blight of vacant properties and are expected to be operational by this summer.

Minister for Levelling Up, Jacob Young, highlighted the initiative’s potential impact, said: “We want to bring high streets back to life and these new levelling up powers will help do just that.

“A lively high street brings an irreplaceable community spirit – one that is unique to its own area – along with new jobs and opportunities for local people.”

In preparation for the rollout, the Government is initiating a ‘trailblazer’ programme with a £2m support pot to assist local authorities in implementing the new powers quickly. The first lease auctions are scheduled for September, with the first newly occupied units expected to open in October.

Alongside this, a pilot program, the High Street Accelerators, will distribute £5m among 10 areas to enhance green spaces and attract more people to shop fronts.

This pilot aims to address the challenges faced by high streets, exacerbated by the pandemic and ongoing social issues.

These measures are part of a broader £15bn levelling up agenda aimed at revitalising communities across the UK by 2030.

The Government also supports the High Streets (Designation, Review and Improvement Plan) Bill, advocating for regular development and publication of high street improvement plans by councils.