cars parked on the side of the road during daytime
Photo by Dan Senior on Unsplash

Last week saw the charitable trust, Power to Change, publish a new report on ‘Why now is the time for a High Street Buyout Fund’, focusing on the need to help revive our struggling high streets using community-led initiatives.

Launched in Parliament, the report provides a strong argument on why community-led initiatives are a key way of reviving high streets and keeping wealth in communities, with the report finding that community-owned spaces contribute £220m to the UK economy.

The report’s flagship policy idea is a new High Street Buyout Fund, which would be able to move at pace to help secure high street assets for communities. The new Fund would incorporate government, commercial and social investment to secure over 200 vacant properties, which would help to rejuvenate high streets across the country. The new Fund is complimented by additional policy recommendations on greater transparency on overseas ownership and stronger powers for local authorities to buy community assets.

At the Co-operative Party, we know empowering communities is essential to developing an economy where power and wealth are shared. Shuttered shops are not a new problem – so the solution cannot be a return to the status quo.

The report found town centre vacancy rates are at an all-time high, with almost 16% of town centre property sitting empty. To unlock the potential of our high streets, we cannot simply tinker around the edges. It is clear there is a consensus around the idea of community-led action to save high streets and regenerate town centres – and it’s no surprise either.

Examples of Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), where local people have greater representation in the decision-making process on regeneration and development, have already had success in places such as Possilpark and Lanark. We support the report’s call to roll out CIDs across the UK.

Power to Change’s report calls for the strengthening the powers of local authorities to be able to purchase neglected high street properties through a new Community Right to Buy – enabling faster regeneration efforts which can be led by communities themselves. This echoes our High Streets Policy Paper from last year.

Finally, we support the report’s commitment to improve the transparency of the ownership of land and buildings in town centres. The establishment of a publicly available register of ownership would make it much easier to identify the owners of the property or land, helping to pave the way for new regeneration projects.

By empowering communities with greater control over the economic development of their town centres, local people will have greater representation in the decision-making process on regeneration and development, giving them a real say and stake in their local areas.

If you support these actions, you can find out how you can get involved by visiting our Unlock the High Street campaign.