London high streets in need of 'emergency measures'

Marcia Hallett's shop is suffering from a lack of footfall she says

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Emergency measures are needed to reverse the decline of London's high streets, a report says.

Renegotiating rents and slowing the spread of pawnbrokers and betting shops are two of the ideas suggested by the London Assembly's Economy Committee.

It also says it needs to be easier for shoppers to get to the high streets by improving parking provision.

The assembly said the number of empty shops had increased in the last two years by 5%, to 3,400.

Shoppers are continuing to use out-of-town shopping centres and making online purchases rather than using the city's high streets.

The Assembly said that in 2000, a third of retail spending took place in out-of-town centres, or on the internet, however by 2011, this had increased to 42%.

'Deterrent to customers'High streets need 'emergency' help

The report also warns the vacancy increase is contributing to the decline, discouraging shoppers and leading to the closure of other retailers that might otherwise have survived.

The committee has called for London-wide support to renegotiate rents; a new register of owners of vacant shops so landlords can be easily traced; and pop-up and interim uses for empty shops.

It also wants an expansion of small business rate relief, paid for through a reduction in landlord's rate relief on empty properties. Currently, landlords do not pay rates for the first three months that a property is empty.

Andrew Dismore, chair of the Economy Committee, said: "Our traditionally diverse and interesting high streets are blighted by the number of empty shops which are a deterrent to customers, discourage further investment, and create an air of decline."

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said more than £250m was being invested to help bring vacant properties back into use, revitalise shop fronts and to support trade and generate jobs.

"The mayor welcomes this report and will continue to work with the boroughs, government and business groups to help unlock the economic potential of London's high streets," added the spokesperson.

Westminster Council said it was undertaking a health check of its High Streets to measure the impact of betting shops and takeaways.

Retail Group has been commissioned to look at the whole area to see which shops and businesses are missing in each area.

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