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Shopping Centres and Urban Areas

Question for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

UIN HL8593, tabled on 29 September 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to protect high streets and shopping parades in England.

Answered on

13 October 2020

This Government is fully committed to supporting the businesses and communities that make our high streets and town centres successful as the nation responds to the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak. Now more than ever, it is vital that we continue to help our local economies by supporting town centres and high streets to recover, adapt and evolve.

We have worked with local authorities to make grants of over £11 billion to more than 890,000 businesses via three funds to support small businesses as well as businesses in hard hit sectors such as retail, hospitality and leisure.

In addition to these funds, in May government announced the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund which is providing £50 million from the European Regional Development Fund to councils across England to support the safe reopening of high streets and other commercial areas. This new money will support practical measures so businesses can re-open quickly when they are allowed to, staff get back to work and customers return to shops confident it is safe.

Government is also delivering the £3.6 billion Towns Fund to re-energise local economies, which includes the accelerated £1 billion?Future High Streets Fund competition. The fund will support local areas in England to renew and reshape town centres and high streets. Government announced in September £80m from the Towns Fund would be delivered to over 100 places to kick start regeneration projects; and we will make an announcement on places receiving funding via the Future High Streets Fund in Autumn.

Government is also providing support to places through the High Streets Task Force. Over five years this is providing hands-on support to local areas like Coventry to develop data-driven innovative strategies to tackle issues such as empty properties and connect local areas to relevant experts. The Task Force will be rolling out its expert, training and data offer across the country in due course and has already launched a range of online support.

We have also set out our plans to reform the planning process in the Planning for the Future consultation, open until 29 October. As part of this, we seek to streamline and modernise the planning process, meaning places across the country are able to respond to the needs of their communities and best utilise the land available for more homes in and around town centres and high streets, levelling up the economic and social opportunities available to our communities.

Finally, since March the Government has implemented a range of measures to support commercial property tenants and landlords. The objective of these measures was to preserve tenants’ businesses through the Covid-19 lockdown and to give time and space to landlords and tenants to agree reasonable adjustments to rent and lease terms,?including terms for the payment of accumulated rent arrears. This included a moratorium on the landlord’s right of forfeiture for non-payment of rent, restrictions on the service of statutory demands and winding-up petitions and publishing a voluntary Code of Practice to encourage constructive dialogue between tenants and landlords.