The British Retail Consortium has unveiled a 20-point plan to secure the long-term future of retailing high streets as it reveals some town centres are already recording vacancy rates of almost 40 per cent.

The report – 21st Century High Streets: A new vision for our town centres – sets out key recommen­dations to save UK high streets. The BRC will also lobby the Government on areas such as business rates and crime in a bid to breathe life back into retail centres.

“It’s crucial that we ensure the future of our high streets and make sure that government understands how any decision, say business rates, affects local communities,” said BRC director of business environment Jane Milne.

The BRC said that on average 12 per cent of town centre shops are now vacant, three times more than last autumn. Insolvency Service figures show retailers entering administration are up 109 per cent year on year.

The report focuses on six key areas: unique sense of place, an attractive public realm, planning for success, accessibility, safety and security, and supportive regulatory and fiscal regimes.

Milne said retail centres should “know who they are targeting” and play to their strengths, whether that is heritage or particular areas of interest. She said maintaining public spaces makes more attractive shopping areas and deters anti-social behaviour. “Car parks should not be used primarily as a means of raising revenue” as this would “kill off the golden goose”, she added.

The BRC is demanding a freeze on all new property and business rate burdens and the reinstatement of the empty property rate relief. It said the cost of complying with existing regulation should be immediately reduced.

Alex Gourlay, chief executive of the health and beauty division of Alliance Boots, said: “With a branch of Boots on almost every high street across the UK, we are acutely aware of the vitalimportance of ensuring the long-term vitality of our town centres.”

40% Vacancy rate in some town centres

109% Year-on-year increase in retailers going into administration