The opposition U.K. Labour party has announced a plan to let local government reopen closed storefronts that have been unoccupied for at least a year in an attempt to revitalize British high streets, according to a report by The Financial Times.
The empty properties have become a blight on the streets and a beacon shining a light on how much local economies are struggling. According to statistics cited by the Times, around 11.8 percent of stores are empty — but the number fluctuates based on area, and in some places the number is as high as 20 percent, with the highest on record being 30 percent.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said that the country’s “once-thriving high streets are becoming ghost streets,” and that the abandoned storefronts are “a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.”
He said he wants the areas to reach the type of potential he knows they can.
“Labour has a radical plan to revive Britain’s struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street, with thousands of new businesses and projects getting the chance to fulfill their potential,” he said.
The plan would involve allowing authorities to take control of the properties’ management the same way that it takes control of residential management orders, putting vacant homes back onto the market and into use.
The terms of the proposed deal did not reveal who would move into the properties. However, ownership of the buildings would not change. The proposed plan would affect about 29,000 units.
There’s also no time limit on how long the local government will take over the vacancies. Also, if the landlords of the properties decide that they want to sell, then the orders would lapse.
There are other proposals in place to help high street as well, including free WiFi in the centers of town, free bus travel for people under the age of 25, and the annual re-checking of business rates.
Jake Berry, the minister for the Northern Powerhouse, opposed the plan.
“Jeremy Corbyn would wreck the economy, tax small businesses and scare off the investment needed to help our high streets, meaning more boarded up shops and fewer jobs,” he said.