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SHOPS: New powers allow councils to auction leases if left empty

empty shop

New powers for councils to auction off leases on properties which have stood empty for more than a year will take effect this summer.

High Street Rental Auctions will let them take control of empty properties and rent them out to local businesses in a bid to increase footfall and tackle wide-ranging related issues such as increased unemployment and anti-social behaviour.

Leases will be auctioned for up to five years, with no reserve price, giving local firms and community groups the chance to occupy space on the high street at a competitive market rate. The new law will shortly be laid in Parliament with the first auctions expected in September.

"These new powers will enable local communities to take back control" - Jacob Young

Data from the Local Data Company found that nationally, in the first quarter of 2023, one in every seven high street shops were closed, while 2021 figures from Whythawk suggested that eight in ten of these vacant properties have been empty for more than two years, and one in five have been empty for more than four years.

LandlordZONE has found one shop, in South London, which has now stood empty for eight years (main picture).

New life

The Minister for Levelling Up, Jacob Young (pictured), says the government wants to breathe new life into once-bustling town centres and transform them into vibrant places, restoring local pride as it levels up across the country.

“A lively high street brings an irreplaceable community spirit – one that is unique to its own area – along with new jobs and opportunities for local people,” he adds.

“These new powers will enable local communities to take back control, backed by over £15 billion of levelling up funding which is transforming towns and left-behind communities across the UK.”

The government is also supporting the High Streets (Designation, Review and Improvement Plan) Bill which will ensure councils routinely develop and publish improvement plans for their high streets.


Michael Sears (pictured), NAEA Commercial Advisory Panel Member at Propertymark, says: "There are still some issues that need to be addressed as the scheme starts to get rolled out, especially in terms of funding and which areas in England will receive most help.

"Giving local authorities these powers is fundamentally a positive thing if it results in the regeneration of disused property, but it would be good to see more details very soon.”  

How to safeguard your commercial property


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