MPs warn of ‘ghost town’ high streets if change does not come


MPs are calling for radical action to save ailing high streets, warning that some are in danger of disappearing altogether if changes aren’t addressed soon, according to a new report.

The High Streets and Town Centres report, published by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said that retail on the high street has reached a ‘tipping point’ and unless urgent action is taken, further deterioration, loss of visitors and dereliction may lead to some high streets and town centres “disappearing altogether”.

Clive Betts MP, the chair of the committee, said: “The heyday of the high street primarily as a retail hub is at an end.”

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But he added: “This need not be its death knell. Local authorities must get to grips with the fact that their town centres need to change; they need to innovate, setting out a long-term strategy for renewal, reconfiguring the town centre and finding new ways of using buildings and encouraging new independent retailers.”

The report outlines problems mobility shops are all too familiar with, such as raising business rates, the battle against online firms, and a dramatic drop in footfall as shopping habits change.

It said: “An enormous change has taken place in retail in recent years. The traditional pattern of making purchases in physical stores, both in and out-of-town, has been profoundly disrupted by the growth of online shopping.

“The impact of this on our high streets and town centres in the form of store closures, persistently empty shops and declining footfall is clear for all to see.”

To combat this, the MPs suggested a “level the playing field” for high street retailers by raising taxes on online giants such as Amazon.

The committee’s proposals also urged local authorities to make high streets more attractive.

It said councils must “get to grips with the fact that their town centres need to change” and create areas that are the “intersection of human life and activity”.

Responses to the suggestions in the report have been mixed, but the overwhelming feeling from UK retailers is that change is needed imminently.


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Joe Peskett

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