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London First unveils 8-point plan to save our high streets
29 January 2020
London First, the capital’s leading business organisation, has today published a major report calling for changes to planning and development rules and cutting red tape to unlock the potential of the high street, and to support London’s start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Rising vacancy rates and declining footfall in recent years has meant that and London’s high streets and town centres are undergoing fundamental transformation. Ensuring that our high streets remain vibrant is critical to maintaining London’s reputation as one of the world’s leading global cities.
On the day of Building London, the flagship event for property and the built environment, London First has published a series of recommendations to support high street and town centre growth, and keep them as experience-driven community hubs that thrive.
Sarah Bevan, Programme Director for Planning and Development at London First, said:
“Successful high streets of the future will be more compact, with a stronger and broader range of uses, including leisure, experiential retail and public services.
“Our high streets must remain vibrant if London and the rest of the UK is to remain a great place to live and work. Changing shopping patterns, in particular, mean that our high streets risk terminal decline if we don’t take action. Greater planning flexibility is key to maximise consumer activity, support positive change and ensure the long-term sustainable future of our high streets.”
To support positive change in London’s high streets and town centres, London First is calling for:
Set up Registers for start-ups, SMEs, arts organisations and community groups looking for short-term lets in vacant space, to occupy them until long-term lets come along
Require landlords to dress the shop frontage on a vacant let, to avoid a shop looking run down, and consider short-term lets
Enable borough access to the GLA’s Compulsory Purchase Order and land assembly expertise, to support high street regeneration and pool talent across the capital
Every town centre should adopt a visionary Management Strategy to leverage investment and expertise from local businesses, and draw together all the relevant council services
Provide greater flexibility and support short-term lets and meanwhile use activities by enabling premises to be used for different activities
Introduce Compulsory Selling Orders, allowing local authorities to sell abandoned buildings or plots to the highest bidder, to tackle long-term vacant properties
Encourage landowners to repair and maintain neglected properties where it is proven to be in the public interest, similar to existing rules on listed buildings
Review planning policy’s town centre hierarchy, to ensure that they have a meaningful and clear purpose.
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