By Daniel Hunter
As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has set out a billion pound package of support for the UK’s high streets.
A central part of that plan is to create more jobs by backing British business. The measures outlined today will make it easier for all the shops on Britain’s high streets to grow, expand and take people on.
They include a new consultation to tackle aggressive parking policies, which harm high streets; and a review of double yellow lines, legislating to allow “grace periods” and stopping CCTV being used for enforcement. The government will also cap increases in parking penalty charges for the rest of this Parliament, with immediate effect. These steps will make it cheaper and easier to park, encourage people to shop locally and help with the cost of living.
There is also help for business following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement with the biggest package of business rates support in over 20 years announced to help the high street. Changes include:
– a £1,000 discount in 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000 – including shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants
– capping the Retail Price Index (RPI) increase in bills to 2% in 2014 to 2015 – businesses were expecting a 3.2 % rise
– extending the doubling of the Small Business Rates Relief to April 2015
– a reoccupation relief for 18 months with a 50% discount for new occupants of retail premises empty for a year or more
– allowing businesses to pay their bills over 12 months (rather than 10), which will help every firm with their cashflow
The importance of online technology is also recognised with a new multi-million pound competition, run by the Technology Strategy Board, being announced to support business-led digital town centres. Additionally the government in partnership with business will fund £4.7 million of research on e-commerce and digital high streets innovations.
In planning, changes to permitted development rights will offer town centres the flexibility they need to adapt existing buildings. The government will consult on permitting change of use from retail to restaurants and retail to cinemas, gyms, skating rinks and swimming pools. They will also consult on allowing installation of mezzanine floors in retail premises where this would support the town centre.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:
The way we use our high streets is changing and the measures unveiled today give councils more power to reflect that in the way their high streets look and operate.
New tax breaks for shops and sensible changes to over zealous parking rules will help make high streets more attractive to shoppers. And by providing excellent local services and offering communities a vibrant place to spend their leisure time and money, local authorities can secure the future of their high streets for many years to come.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
Unfair parking fines blight the use of our high streets and force shoppers out of towns. We want to rein back aggressive rules by banning the use of CCTV for parking enforcement, reviewing the use of yellow lines, and giving shoppers a ‘grace period’ to get back to their car after their ticket has run out before they get fined.
We will also update guidance to emphasise a less heavy-handed approach to parking enforcement and to reinforce that charges and fines cannot be used as a means to raise cash.