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Review to find measures to rid London’s 197 high streets of empty shops launched

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For this, the London Assembly Economy Committee is asking high street shop owners to send in their views on the challenges they are facing, and what support is needed to keep high streets thriving and diverse.

What can be done to bring London’s empty high streets back to life? The committee has announced to look at measures taken locally and nationally to bring empty shops back into use, including local loyalty schemes, business rate relief for small firms and using the empty space for training residents or as an art gallery.

The review will also assess various programmes to support high streets and small businesses, such as Boris Johnson’s commitment to use £221m of GLA and external regeneration funding to support high streets.

The diversity of high street shops, on the back of concerns that empty shops have been filled by betting shops, payday loan firms, pawnbrokers and fast food takeaways, will also be of concern in the review.

Government figures show shop vacancy rates have been rising nationally since the recession hit in 2008. Last year’s End of Year Vacancy Report revealed that one in ten shops in the capital stood empty. These are worrying figures, Andrew Dismore AM, chair of the Economy Committee, said:

“Empty shops are not only a symptom, but a cause of the long-term deterioration of our high streets. Closed shutters detract from the vibrancy of an area and every single one represents the loss of several jobs.”

Apart from the recession, competition with out-of-town retail centres and online shopping has also contributed to shop closures. To find out more about the problems on London’s high street, the committee is asking high street shop owners to email economycommittee@london.gov.uk with their own view on the issue, and sharing the challenges they are facing.

The closing date for submissions is 31 August 2012. Real Business will report on the findings when they are published early next year.

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