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Labour leader outlines highstreet rules shake-up

Jeremy Corbyn intends to empower local authorities to combat British highstreet decline

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Image Credit: Garry Knight, Flickr

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to introduce new powers which would allow councils to acquire retail premises that have lain empty for a year or more.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Bolton, Mr Corbyn said: "Boarded up shops are a symptom of economic decay" and "a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so communities have suffered."

In a bid to empower local authorities, Mr Corbyn has outlined the first steps of his plans for the local high street, which would see a register of landlords introduced for local government to oversee the number of empty premises on the high street.

Plans as to how local authorities will be able to seize empty properties are yet to be given.

Meanwhile, The Conservatives have hit back. Jake Berry, Minister of State for the Northern Powerhouse, said: "Jeremy Corbyn would wreck the economy, tax small businesses and scare off the investment needed to help our high streets. We will deliver Brexit by October 31st so that we can get on with levelling up opportunities across our country."

The announcement comes at a time when highstreet prospects are bleak.

Earlier this year, it was discovered that on average high streets in England and Wales have lost 40 shops in the past five years. 160,000 retail jobs are set to be lost in 2019 alone.

The ever-expanding e-commerce market has been a growing behemoth for the British high street to contend with for many years now, and many retailers are feeling its impact greatly. This, along with rising overheads associated with running a physical shop front, as well as poor growth in real wages, has been a toxic mix for the British high street.

In spite of tough conditions, some high streets have taken novel approaches to buck the downward trend in bricks and mortar retail.

York's own Bishopthorpe Road, which once saw a fifth of its storefronts lay empty, was voted Britain's best high street in 2015.

'Bishy Road' as it is known to residents was on the brink in the wake of the financial crash. Yet the retail community have pooled their efforts into making Bishopthorpe Road an attractive, friendly place to shop, with a keen emphasis on customer experience and community spirit to attract customers.

Since 2008 it has acted as one contained unit, relaunched under a single banner; businesses are now encouraged to support one another, endorsing the plethora of unique, independently owned shops on the road. This has seen its empty retail space rapidly shrink from 20% down to zero, and its local economy thrives.

Bishopthorpe Road, York, is now one of Britain's busiest highstreets (Credit: Tim Green, Flickr)

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