Government to transform high street by seizing vacant shops

The government has revealed it will seize empty shops as part of a multi-million plan to regenerate the high street.

Speaking in Coventry, Boris Johnson said that councils in England would be given powers to take over buildings through compulsory purchase orders.

They will also be encouraged to use their existing powers to convert vacant shops into housing without planning permission.

The move is part of a series of “Town Deals”, which will cost the taxpayer an estimated £335 million.

READ MORE: High street could ‘collapse’ over summer, Usdaw warns

“We are transforming our high streets across the UK into the kind of vibrant places we will want to visit, work and call home,” communities minister Robert Jenrick claimed.

“This strategy sets out a vision for entrepreneurship to thrive.”

High streets have been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with around 5000 shops closing since the start of the pandemic.

Last week, regional growth minister Luke Hall admitted that town centres may never regain their pre-pandemic popularity.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker was “delighted” by the government’s move.

“Strong, vibrant high streets are the beating heart of proud, local economies,” he said.

“Now is the perfect time to remove some of the outdated planning practices that have stood in the way of local regeneration and growth.”

However, planning reforms have recently proved controversial among the grocery sector and members of the public.

Jenrick was heavily criticised in May when he announced that converting shops into housing would no longer need a full planning application.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) claimed the low value of commercial space meant 63 per cent of local shops could be lost.

Last month, Conservative MPs blamed the party’s shock defeat in the Amersham by-election on plans to remove the community veto over building developments.

The Liberal Democrats took the Home Counties seat, held by a Conservative since 1974, with an 8000 vote majority.

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