Empty high street shops have become an all too familiar sight in London as the economic downturn bites and closures increase. What can be done to bring these shops back into use?
The London Assembly Economy Committee today launches a review of measures designed to reduce shop vacancies and boost the capital’s 197 high streets.
Government figures show shop vacancy rates have been rising nationally since the recession hit in 2008 and data from last year showed one in ten shops in the capital stood empty. Apart from the recession, competition with out-of-town retail centres and online shopping has also contributed to shop closures.
As part of its investigation, the Committee will look at:
- Measures taken locally and nationally to bring empty shops back into use, including local loyalty schemes, business rate relief for small firms and using the empty space for training residents or as an art gallery.
- Mayoral pledges and programmes to support high streets and small businesses programmes, including regeneration programmes, the GLA-funded Portas pilots and the Mayor’s support for Business Improvement Districts.
- The diversity of high street shops, on the back of concerns that empty shops have been filled by betting shops, payday loan firms, pawnbrokers and fast food takeaways.
Chair of the Economy Committee, Andrew Dismore AM, said:
“Empty shops are not only a symptom, but a cause of the long-term deterioration of our high streets. Closed shutters detract from the vibrancy of an area and every single one represents the loss of several jobs.
“High street shops provide an essential service to many people and we need to ensure everything possible is being done to keep them thriving.”
As part of the review, the Committee is asking high street shop owners to send in their views on the challenges they are facing, and what support is needed to keep high streets thriving and diverse. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org The closing date for submissions is 31 August 2012.
The Committee will publish a report of its findings early next year.
Notes for editors:
- Understanding High Street Performance, Genecon LLP and Partners, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2011.
- End of Year Vacancy Report 2011, Local Data Company, 2012. Available at:
- The Mayor has identified £221 million of GLA and external regeneration funding, which he has pledged to use to support high streets and small businesses.
- Following the Government’s announcement of the Portas Pilots, the Mayor announced that he was going to provide £300,000 to launch three additional pilots in London, to be chosen by the GLA over the summer. The Committee will add to the work by retail consultant Mary Portas in her review of high streets by drilling down into specific proposals and focusing on powers the Mayor has to take action in this area. Mary Portas made a number of recommendations to help high streets become “destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning” as well as selling goods. These included removing restrictions on people becoming market traders, putting betting shops into a separate use class and new controlled parking schemes.
- Read more about the Committee’s work on empty shops.
- Andrew Dismore AM, Chair of the Economy Committee, is available for interview. See contact details below.
- As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.
For more details, please contact Lisa Moore in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4228/4283. For out of hours media enquiries please call 0207 983 4000 and ask for the Assembly duty press officer. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit, Greater London Authority, on 020 7983 4100.