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What Now For The Thousands of Empty Shops in The UK?

Peter Hemple looks at the likely consequences of the ‘empty shop bill’

On 10 May, Prince Charles outlined the government’s priorities for the year ahead when he delivered the Queen’s Speech. He stood in for the Queen at the ceremony to officially reopen Parliament, after she dropped out due to health issues. The speech highlighted some of the 38 laws that ministers intend to pass in the coming year. Of most interest to landlords and property developers is the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is set to transform England’s planning and environment regulations.

The government has committed to regenerating town centres and high streets under the Bill, which will give local councils the power to hold compulsory rental auctions on shops and other premises that have been empty for more than a year, to make them available to new tenants, earning it the name the ‘empty shop bill’.

The Bill will also enable towns to make outdoor dining spaces that were temporarily introduced during Covid-19 a permanent fixture, among other measures aimed at improving high streets.

Ahead of the speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “High streets up and down the country have long been blighted by derelict shop fronts because they’ve been neglected, stripping opportunity from local areas. We are putting that right by placing power back in the hands of local leaders and the community so our towns can be rejuvenated.

“The number of empty shop fronts has soared to 1 in 7 according to the British Retail Consortium, rising to 1 in 5 in the northeast, with boarded up and derelict shops blighting high streets and sapping the life from once bustling town centres. New Compulsory Rental Auctions will ensure that landlords auction shops that have been vacant for over a year to prospective tenants, putting buildings to good use.”

Over 36,000 empty shops
The latest Vacancy Monitor from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), covering Q1 2022, actually revealed that the number of empty shops was lower than in Q4 2021.

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