Retailers unveil strategy to rescue blighted high streets

The British Retail Consortium has urged the Government to help "rescue" the high street from an accelerated demise as the number of boarded-up shops soars during the downturn.

At the launch of the BRC's 21st Century High Streets report yesterday, Alex Gourlay, chief executive of Alliance Boots' health and beauty division, also warned of a "double-dip" recession.

The BRC – which said the report was merely the start of its lobbying campaign – unveiled a series of recommendations, including a freeze on business rates, increased car parking spaces and a crackdown on all retail crime. It added that a more co-ordinated strategy between store groups, local authorities, police bodies and landlords was required to regenerate town centres.

Last week, the fragility of trading on the high streets was laid bare when the property division of the UK's second-biggest carpet retailer, Allied Carpets, was placed into administration, putting about 1,100 jobs at risk and up to 166 of its 217 stores on the market. The BRC said the overall number of vacant town centre shops had tripled to 12 per cent since last autumn, but some towns have vacancy rates of 40 per cent.

Stephen Robertson, the director general of the BRC, said: "High streets are a major part of our national mix but many of them are in trouble, facing difficulties that began well before the current recession." Property is the biggest cost burden faced by retailers, accounting for about one-third of non-inventory costs for retailers, Mr Gourlay said.

The BRC yesterday again called for a freeze on all new property and business rate burdens. On 31 March, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, spread the introduction of a 5 per cent increase in business rates – based on September's inflation figure – over two years instead of a single rise from 1 April.

Mr Robertson said that retailers contribute 10 per cent to the UK's GDP, but pay 25 per cent of all business rates.

Among its proposals on crime, the BRC said that all retail crime and anti-social behaviour must be deterred, with damaged property being restored as quickly as possible, and called for central government, local authorities and the police to work more closely with retailers. Mr Robertson said: "Crime continues to blight our high street. We really don't think the issue is being taken seriously."

According to the BRC's report, the Government and local authorities should not use car parks "primarily as a means of raising revenue", and that a proportion of funds raised should be ring-fenced to improve car parking options. It cited the example of Barnet Council in north London, which introduced a temporary reduction in the cost of parking from 20 December to 4 January 2009.

On the economy, Mr Gourlay said: "I think there could be a double-dip recession", citing factors including the rise in VAT back to 17.5 per cent from 1 January, growing unemployment and a likely uplift in interest rates and general taxation after the next general election. He added: "The VAT reduction has had a bigger positive impact than people have recognised."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'