Small shops and high streets hit by recession

26 November 2009

More than one shop in every ten has closed within the past nine months. A UK wide survey of more than 700 town centres found that florists and independent bookshops have been hard hit, along with travel agents and estate agents.

To put the towns' local shopping areas on the road to recovery, the Reading Green Party is prescribing five anti-recession remedies; Councils should aim to keep shopping parades attractive for local shoppers and combat the dereliction that might otherwise arise in a recession.

1.) The Council should work with commercial landlords to promote a short-term tenancy scheme for vacant shops to prevent high streets turning into ghost towns and keep community spirit alive. The Council should also be given new powers to penalise landlords who leave shop premises empty for more than three months.

2.) The Council should back the grassroots "slack space" movement which aims to provide temporary community and cultural uses, such as swap shops, debt counselling advice and art and music spaces -- such as the Art Windows scheme being run by Jelly.

3.) The Council should be given new powers to decide what post office provision is needed in their borough. By keeping post office open the boroughs will encourage local residents onto shopping streets and will reduce post office queuing at the same time.

4.) The council should lobby the government to issue automatic business rate relief for all small businesses that are eligible. Over half of businesses entitled to rates relief do not claim it, despite government already knowing which businesses could claim.

"Some of Reading's local shopping streets are in danger of being wiped out by the recession" said Reading West Green Parliamentary candidate Adrian Windisch.

"Empty shops are creating ghost towns that can become hotspots for crime and anti-social behaviour. The Council urgently needs to draw up a rescue plan for local shopping streets, before our local shops are gone forever".

Adrian continued: "Small businesses are under pressure as never before. Huge supermarkets destroy local shops and exploit the smaller companies that supply them. Big companies pay late and poach workers from small firms. Yet it is not small businesses that cause the most pollution, waste the most resources and exploit their workers; they serve largely local markets and strengthen local economies and communities."

Notes for the Editor

1. For more information please contact Adrian Windisch on 0118 9567190 or 07802 671606
2. The survey by Local data is reported the Times
3. On 28th February 2009 the Local Government Association announced that it had sent out a survey to all local authority leaders on the impact of empty shops in town centres.
4. 85% of the council responses received nationally claimed to have seen an increase in the number of empty shops in town centres.
5. In May 2006 a Federation of Small Businesses' survey found that only 49% of eligible businesses were claiming Business Rate Relief.



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