Shopping malls blow

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Town centres have been given a boost in their battle against out- of-town shopping malls. Government and major shopping chains have agreed to fund a pounds 200,000 research project into self-help schemes, in which businesses located in decline-threatened centres club together to fund local improvements in a tightly defined ''business improvement zones'' which keep them attractive to shoppers, visitors and property investors.

The research will cover about 10n areas, including Brixton and Oxford Street in London, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Newcastle and Bristol.