District councils declare high street ’emergency’

The number of planning applications for new shops on Britain’s high streets has almost halved in five years, according to new research.

The research by the District Councils Network (DCN) claims there were 1,258 applications received for retail and service developments in the year ending June 2019, down from 2,216 in the year ending June 2015.

According to the DCN, the figures show that the UK’s high streets are in a state of ‘emergency’.

The analysis also shows planning applications for new housing have slumped to a four-year low, with district councils receiving 31,073 applications for new homes in 2019 – the lowest since 2015.

The DCN has called on the government to give all districts the long-term funding they need to revive high streets, and to give them flexibility to raise finance locally for instance to set business rates relief.

In July, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found voters in deprived areas wanted to see more vibrant local economies and thriving local high streets after Brexit.

In the same month, Boris Johnson launched a £3.6bn fund to support 100 struggling towns around the country.

‘These figures paint a worrying picture about the future of our high streets and town centres, and highlights the uphill battle we face tackling the housing crisis,’ said the DCN’s lead for stronger economies, Cllr Mark Crane.

‘There are huge opportunities to reshape places into thriving community, cultural and employment hubs – by investing in new housing, infrastructure, services and events.

‘However, district councils, which are responsible for delivering housing and improving high streets, need the funding certainty and powers to transform town centres, to attract investment into infrastructure, and to build new homes,’ added Cllr Crane.

‘While there is a growing amount of energy and schemes invested in tackling these issues from Whitehall, the national complexity and focus on short term results risks under-utilising the ambitions of district councils to deliver change over the long-term.’

Photo Credit – Free-Photos (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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