Labour plans to give councils power to take over vacant shops

25 February 2021, 06:23

Many shops remain closed on the High Street in Leicester during England's third national lockdown
Many shops remain closed on the High Street in Leicester during England's third national lockdown. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Councils should be given the power to take over the management of empty shops as part of a plan to revive ailing high streets, Labour will say.

Local authorities should be given the power to repurpose commercial properties that have been vacant for at least 12 months to bring them back into use, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds will say.

She will also use a speech on Thursday to call for the reversal of rules that could allow shops to be sold off for conversion to housing without planning permission.

Ahead of her speech, Ms Dodds said: "Britain's high streets are at the heart of local communities. It is not just a string of shops and post offices, it's a place that people want to have pride in.

"The high street goes to the heart of Labour's vision to make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old in.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak offers £4.6bn lifeline for high streets

"However, the Conservatives have presided over a decade of decline in Britain's high streets that has left our economy insecure and the foundations of our society weakened.

"Labour's plan would help secure the future of the high street. It would give local communities a proper stake in their town centres, support new businesses to open up on our high streets and help rebuild our economy post-pandemic."

The proposed "empty shops order" would see councils work with the owner of an empty shop to bring it back into use.

But if that was not successful, the council would have the power to secure management rights, carry out works and then put the property into use - without the consent of the owner.

The authority would then be permitted to charge rent and, after recouping the cost of works, that rent would then pass to the owner.

The policy builds on an idea put forward by retail guru Mary Portas - TV's Mary Queen of Shops - in her 2011 review on the future of high streets.

Ms Dodds' speech will also include a call for the Government to use its review of business rates to ensure reforms help high street stores compete with online retailers.

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