High street strategy: Councils encouraged to turn empty shops into entertainment venues

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While in the past many councils have been accused of blocking entertainment businesses from setting up on high streets, the government has now encouraged local authorities across the UK to allow empty shops to be transformed into entertainment without the need for planning permission. The strategy to regenerate Britain’s high streets has been released.


The government has launched a long-term plan for high streets that will allow councils to turn empty shops into entertainment venues, as well as a new ‘Hospitality Strategy’ to support the sector in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking from the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) in Coventry last week, the Prime Minister set out his vision on how the government would level up and unite the country, and his commitment to breathe new life into town centres.

To achieve this, councils in England will be given the power to transform towns, taking over derelict buildings through compulsory purchase orders so they can be converted into new homes if property owners stall on regeneration plans. Councils will also be encouraged to use existing powers to convert empty offices into housing, and empty shops will be transformed into entertainment venues without the need for planning permission. Hospitality will also be given a boost with the streamlined pavement licensing system extended for 12 months across England so more shops, cafes and restaurants can make use of outdoor areas, with an intention to make this permanent.

“We welcome this levelling up announcement from the government, which aligns with our own goals to enhance the social mobility chances for people across the country by helping them to build careers in hospitality,” said Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King. “As an employer of 40,000 people, the easing of restrictions from 19 July gives us an opportunity to rebuild our business, protect jobs and recover trade following a year of closures and restrictions in the face of COVID-19. We know it’s going to be a long road, which is why longer-term measures such as increasing the capacity for alfresco dining and takeaway pints is something that would make a real difference to our trading abilities, as well as hopefully further encouraging customers to support their local high street once more.”

Furthermore, the Government has unveiled a separate ‘Hospitality Strategy’ to support the sector in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Spearheaded by business minister Paul Scully, it will focus on reopening, recovery and resilience with measures such as using the Department of Work and Pension’s work coaches to highlight the sector to job seekers in a bid to tackle in the recruitment challenges.



Well not much detail from the Communities ministry as the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick unveiled the government’s “long-term plan to support the evolution of high streets into thriving places to work, visit and live will breathe new life into town centres.”

What there was, though, will touch a number of key towns and resorts, with three key objectives for the strategy:

>New high street strategy to transform town centres into vibrant places to live, work and visit
>Derelict buildings to be transformed, streets to be cleaned up, and communities across the UK given the chance to own their local pubs, theatres, sports grounds and corner shops
>15 Town Deals confirmed worth £335 million to revitalise towns across England

Part of the levelling up plan, Jenrick was conscious that ‘build back better’ must mean a “vision for entrepreneurship to thrive” and putting “power in the hands of local people…A sense of community is at the heart of the strategy, ensuring local areas are protected for current and future generations to enjoy.” Greener forms of transport, al fresco dining, tackling graffiti, cleaning up streets and, most importantly for business, ‘repurposing empty shops on high streets’ – and 15 towns are already on the funds list: repurposing projects in Crewe, entertainment and leisure venues in Grays in London, a public square in Todmorden and revamping Sunderland’s ice rink into a family entertainment venue.


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