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    Action plan unveiled to tackle anti-social behaviour and revitalise high streets

    Representative iStock image

    Local people and businesses will be helped to take control of empty shops blighting high streets, Communities Secretary Michael Gove has announced on Monday as he unveiled plans to revitalise high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour.

    Councils will be armed with new powers through High Street Rental Auctions to take control quickly of empty buildings, giving communities and local businesses the opportunity to bid for the chance to rent shops.

    The government said this will breathe new life into boarded-up shops and ensure high streets do not fall into disrepair, whilst giving more opportunities for local businesses to expand and thrive.

    The Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan will make £2 million available to help communities and local businesses take control of these properties by covering the cost of refurbishing properties, the auction and council fees.

    “Too many high streets which were once the beating hearts of our communities have fallen into disrepair and are now blighted by boarded-up shops, broken windows and anti-social behaviour,” Gove said.

    “We are putting this right through our Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan which will give communities the power to breathe new life into their high street, ensuring that empty shops can be rented out to local people and community groups.”

    Research shows that anti-social behaviour is the main reason people do not feel safe in their local area and seeing empty shops and buildings adds further to the sense of community decline.

    A review of current complex leasing laws – led by the Law Commission – will further remove barriers to accessing property and help small businesses to occupy properties quicker and reduce the number of empty shops on high streets, boost the local economy and bring more jobs to areas.

    The government said up to 172,000 commercial properties are empty across the UK and 8 in 10 of these have been vacant for more than two years. The North East and West Midlands have the most shuttered shops, with over 15 per cent properties empty, resulting in hollowed out town centres.

    Other measures include:

    • Cracking down on those that exploit vulnerable people by taking control of their property for criminal activity, or ‘cuckooing’, by consulting on making it a criminal offence
    • Unlimited fines for irresponsible landlords and building owners who allow their properties to fall into disrepair and for anti-social behaviour to thrive
    • Giving councils more powers to move in quickly when houses are left vacant – cutting the timeframe from when they can act from two years of a building being empty to six months

    A new £2.5 million High Street Accelerator programme will empower and incentivise local people to work in partnership to develop a long-term vision for revitalising high streets so they are fit for purpose. Accelerators will bring together residents, businesses, and community organisations to develop and deliver a long-term vision to tackle the causes of persistent vacancy on the high street. This will initially run in up to 10 pilot areas.

    A consultation will explore whether the National Planning Policy Framework should consider measures such as CCTV and extra lighting to make sure high streets are designed with safety.

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