Retailers will be able to open pop up shops more easily under new Government plans to reduce red tape, boosting the high street.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has highlighted Government proposals to scrap restrictions that hinder start up businesses from temporarily using vacant shops.
The Government hopes that by removing the restrictions start ups can fill the empty gaps in struggling high streets, reviving them.
Shoppers are spending less and reducing their high street visits as they turn to other retail channels. In the first quarter high street footfall was down 2% year-on-year, while the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was flat at 11%.
A key barrier is a planning regulation which defines what a shop can and cannot be used for, such as office space, houses or retail.
Pickles said: “Leaving empty shops to rot is a wasted economic opportunity that spoils the town centre – that is why we are proposing to scrap the damaging red tape that is keeping so many boarded up.
“This change can unleash our young entrepreneurs to open pop-up shops and turn the high streets into an exciting start-up launch pad.
“Reclaiming dreary unused street space can breathe new life into high streets - by decluttering streets for pedestrians, creating a lively atmosphere with pavement cafes, pop-up shop spots and entertainment so they are a more family-friendly fun place to go.”
Under the new proposals landlords would be able to temporarily change the use of a shop for two years. Landlords must apply for planning permission for anything considered a ‘material’ change of use. Currently landlords face long dealys securing planning permission as well as an average bill of £1,200.
Ministers hope the deregulation will create more affordable sites and attract entrepreneurs who want to open start-up businesses. The Government said the move should “end the blight of boarded up shops” and help landlords meet property costs.
A new guide published today offers advice on how to make a town a more social experience, which is a recommendation self-styled retail guru Mary Portas made in her report to Government to help revitalise high streets. The new guide encourages town centres to remove street clutter for pedestrians, open more street stalls and pop up shops and offer attractions such as pavement cafes, play areas, outdoor libraries or street entertainment.
British Council of Shopping Centres Director of Policy and Public Affairs Edward Cooke said: “Creating vibrant public spaces and encouraging community involvement in town and city centres bolsters places both socially and economically. As retail destinations continue to compete with online and multi-channel retailing, we should remember that the most successful locations benefit from the creation of ‘theatre’ and a sense of place.”
The Government has committed over £80m to provide loans for entrepreneurs, which could translate into 30,000 new businesses.