Yesterday the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee in UK Parliament published its long awaited ‘High streets and town centres in 2030’ report following it’s inquiry which begun last year.
The ATCM (Association of Town Centre Managment) has provided the following observations on the new report:
The report details the four systemic issues it believes are harming UK high streets:
- Too much retail space
- Fragmented ownership
- Retailers’ high fixed costs: business rates and rent
- Business taxation
Within this, the report indicates that the burden of business rates is something which goes beyond just retail and impacts other sectors with Cineworld having one of the most negative ratios when it comes to the proportion of business rates paid in relation to turnover.
The Committee has concluded that ensuring town centres are more orientated around community and activity will support the process of Future Proofing.
The Committee says:
“We are convinced that high streets and town centres will survive, and thrive, in 2030 if they adapt, becoming activity-based community gathering places where retail is a smaller part of a wider range of uses and activities. Green space, leisure, arts and culture and health and social care services must combine with housing to create a space that is the “intersection of human life and activity” based primarily on social interactions rather than financial transactions. Individual areas will need to identify the mix that best suits their specific characteristics, local strengths, culture and heritage. Fundamentally, community must be at the heart of all high streets and town centres in 2030.”
The Future High Streets Fund
The Committee has welcomed the Future High Streets Fund, but has recognised that many towns will miss out on this support with ATCM’s CEO, Ojay McDonald, stressing that better resourced local authorities must be part of a longer-term answer.
The Committee says:
“The Future High Streets Fund is only one part of the solution. Local intervention, while essential, needs to be accompanied by further action by central government and at local level, as well as by retailers and landlords, to create the conditions for high streets and town centres to flourish in the future.”
Treasury Announces Inquiry into Business Rates
The end of this inquiry comes days after the Treasury Committee has announced an inquiry of its own, looking at greater detail at the role of the business rates system in terms of both the impact on businesses and local government finance. ATCM will be monitoring this and working with members and partners to influence the final report in the coming months.