Good ideas to revitalise our high streets are to be welcomed. A healthy High Street is beneficial for shoppers, communities and investors alike. But is giving local authorities the power to reopen shops left vacant for more than a year a good idea?
A vibrant mix of tenants is vital for the success of high streets. Providing new entrants with help to get into their first shops could give budding entrepreneurs the confidence to take that first step. Having taken that step some bright new businesses could be born. But at what point should a new tenant have to run their business on a level playing field with neighbouring retail businesses? How many new tenants find that when the comfort blanket is pulled from beneath them their businesses are no longer viable? What help or guidance will be available to a new tenant to help it avoid losing the money it invests in the business if it is an inexperienced start up or co-op?
Landlords rarely want properties to remain vacant. So we must look at why premises are vacant. If the asking rent is too high, could a local authority compel an investor to set the rent lower? Business rates could be suspended but how would other local retail businesses feel about that? What if the problem is disrepair, poor location and changing consumer habits?
So ultimately, is Corbyn's idea a good one? I can see positives and negatives, but it is an idea. And we've been short of those.
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has recently unveiled, arguably, controversial plans to save our high streets. Under his new plan, Corbyn wants to give power to local authorities to reopen shops left vacant for more than a year in the bid to turn these into start-up shops and co-ops.