The UK’s Labour party wants to allow local authorities to take over vacant properties in an effort to give the country’s retail market a boost.
The stores being taken over have been vacant for at least 12 months, according to the Financial Times. Around 11.8 percent of stores around the UK are currently vacant, according to the Local Data Company. In some towns the rate is over 20 percent, with the highest figure coming in at 33 percent. An estimated 29,000 retail units have been vacant for 12 months.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was expected to reveal the plans this weekend, saying that the UK’s “once thriving high streets are becoming ghost streets” and boarded-up shops have become “a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.”
“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 is set to say.
There was no revelation as to who would occupy the properties once they have been taken over.
This is just one of the party’s plans to revitalize the country’s retail sector. Other ideas include an annual revaluation of business rates, free WiFi in town centers, free bus travel for under-25s, and ending ATM charges and Post Office closures.
In response to the announcement, Jake Berry, the minister for the Northern Powerhouse, said that the government was focused on delivering Brexit in order to “get on with leveling up opportunities across our country and breathe new life into high streets and town centers.”
“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 added.
And Ion Fletcher, director of finance and commercial policy at the British Property Federation, said that while the organization supported helping struggling town centers, allowing local authorities to reopen shops “simply shifted the challenge of finding an occupier from the private to the public sector.”
He explained that the idea raised “worrying questions about what rights property owners would have in such cases. Many landlords are happy to let out property on a meanwhile basis with little or no rent, but the sad fact is that in many places property owners find it difficult to find an occupier even at zero rent.”