In a report on high street regeneration, the CBI made the case for incentives to be put in place to encourage businesses to take on empty properties. It also proposed the creation of specific bodies to look after the regeneration and the scrapping of new planning measures.
A report from PwC earlier this week found the number of shop closures had dropped from an average of 20 per day to 18 per day in the first six months of 2013, but all are in agreement, the figure is still far too high.
To save the high street, it is widely argued that rents will have to come down as well as business rates. There is evidence that this has started to happen in some areas but there needs to be a wider acknowledgement by landlords that without a drop in rents, their properties are likely to stay empty.
The CBI report concedes the high street is a much-changed place in the wake of online retail and it must prepare for a future with fewer shops but that ‘thriving local economies’ could be created once more.
‘We think there needs to be new incentives to bring businesses back on to the high street,’ said the CBI.
‘The business rates holiday is being looked at in Scotland and it is being implemented in Northern Ireland. The English Government is a bit behind the curve and could do more.’
The report called for the public and private sectors to work together in rejuvenating the high streets through a mixture of housing, leisure, public services and jobs.
The lobby group urged the government to bring a review of property valuations forward – given the last valuation was at the height of the property boom – it also called for business rates rises to be capped at 2% per year.
‘Excessive business rates are currently an unacceptable burden on companies and as a result are pushing firms from the high street at a time when we should be encouraging greater occupancy,’ it warned.
Move over Mary Portas there’s a new high street saviour in town.