This seven-month investigation was published in December. At the time, the Government seemed pleased but what, if anything, will they do? The proposed National Planning Policy Framework might weaken 'town centre first' approaches. And steep cuts in funding to local authorities will make it harder for them to help. However, the problems facing the High Street are at least being made more public. Here is a summary of some of the recommendations in the Report which members might like to think about.
- Town teams to run centres like a business with a management team comprising shopkeepers, landlords, council representatives and residents.
- An out-town veto giving Government ministers an "exceptional sign-off' on new out-of-town developments.
- Penalise landlords for leaving shops empty. And if shop premises really are defunct, some suggested alternative uses are for conversions to gyms, creches, bingo halls.
- A National Market Day to publicise markets and reduce regulations so more people can become market traders.
- Business rate concessions - offering the same discounts given to charity shops for retail start-ups and small businesses.
- Free controlled parking to be set up by local authorities, with a league table to make charges transparent.
- Major retailers should report on their support for local high streets in their annual reports.
In Ipswich, the idea of 'town teams' seems partly covered already by Ipswich Central. Penalising landlords for empty shops might seem a good idea - because a great many are owned by investment companies more interested in the potential capital gain rather than the urgency to obtain rental income. Otherwise why don't they more readily reduce rents? Members' comments on all of this would be welcomed by the Newsletter.