Grimsey Review unveils 31-point plan to save the British high street

More than 20,000 independent retailers could face collapse if nothing is done to save the British high street, claims Bill Grimsey in his review of the Great British high street.

Bill Grimsey, the former boss of DIY chain Wickes and food retailer Iceland, is releasing his report to MPs today (Wednesday). The report was co-written with nine other experts.

“The high street landscape has now irrevocably changed, and there is no point clinging on to a sentimental vision of the past. We have to start planning for a bold new world,” says Grimsey.

A cornerstone of the report will be the suggestion that Britain’s largest retailers pay for the regeneration of Britain’s high streets. Tesco, for example, could contribute 0.25 per cent of its 2014 sales to a fund that would sponsor new businesses, says Grimsey. This one-off levy could raise more than £550m.

In total, the report makes 31 recommendations, including calls for:

  • The planning system to be reworked
  • More people to be encouraged to live in local town centres
  • Britain’s banking system to be changed so that it reconnects with local businesses
Other recommendations in the report range from appointing a High Streets Minister and a freeze on car parking charges for a year.

“If you hold a mirror up to an ugly man, you will not get a good reaction,” adds Grimsey. “In this case, the ugly man is Britain’s town centres and its high streets. This report will be unpalatable.”

Business rates

The report also calls for an immediate reverse of a plan to delay a review of business rates from 2015 to 2017. 

Business rates have grown 22.5 per cent over the past five years while sales in high street shops have grown at just half the rate – 11.4 per cent. Grimsey therefore recommends that rates be frozen from 2014, and any future increases should be based on an annualised rate of inflation. In addition, any business occupying an empty property that has been vacant for at least 12 months should receive a rates relief of 50 per cent.

“With small independent businesses increasingly sharing a bigger proportion of the business rates burden, we believe the total level of mandatory relief should be reviewed with a view to capping it,” says Grimsey.

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