ACS: coalition failing to deliver on high streets pledge

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Local shops are warning the coalition is failing to deliver on a pledge to promote diversity on British high streets.

ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) chief executive James Lowman will today tell a meeting of MPs the coalition has so far failed to deliver any policy changes that will deliver their coalition agreement commitment to create a level playing field between small and large retailers.

Lowman will explain how key policy initiatives that would deliver on the pledge have been rejected and how others remain confused or unimplemented. For example:

  • Government has twice rejected proposals brought forward in Parliament to give Councils legal powers to promote retail diversity on high streets.
  • Neighbourhood planning reforms will fail to give communities enough power over which businesses can set up on the high street
  • Proposals for a ‘competition test’ that would prevent the Tesco Town phenomena show no sign of being implemented

Lowman said: “Ministers have given repeated reassurances about the importance of high streets. However this all amounts to empty words if they don’t bring in credible policy changes that put communities in charge.”

One year on from the promises made in the coalition agreement, almost one in six shops on the UK High street has been vacated. In the same time the big four multiple retailers have opened 407 new stores, and added over 5m sq ft of new retail selling space.

Lowman said: “Ministers must take decisive action. Thousands of high street and independent shops are closing their doors in the face of unprecedented, aggressive expansion from major supermarkets.

“Ministers should enshrine powers to promote retail diversity into the Localism Bill and revisit proposals on neighbourhood planning to give communities more say over who sets up shop in their area.”

Jack Dromey MP, opposition spokesman on planning issues has championed changes to the law that promote retail diversity and said: “We need to put the heart back into Britain’s high streets. Labour wants to give communities a real say over the future of their high street and the power to make the changes they want enshrined in law.

“The Government’s Planning Minister, Greg Clark, has said he wants to give communities real power over their local area and will look to strengthen the role of our high streets in our towns and cities. But warm words are not enough and the Government has twice rejected Labour’s proposals to give Councils legal powers to promote retail diversity on high streets.

“One of the things I hear from my constituents is how the character of the local high street has changed. The high street is not what it once was, they say. And I know many other MPs hear the same – we want to put that right.

“Healthy and diverse high streets are the heart of local communities. High streets and neighbourhood shopping parades are the engine room of thriving communities and local economies. Labour wants to rebuild a great British institution, the high street.”