What a great idea! Community Secretary Hazel Blears has finally taken
our advice and, although we didn’t actually talk to her, our ideas
have obviously wafted across the river to Westminster. Blears last
week announced that there were new measure to help communities
“findcreative ways to reduce the negative impact empty shops have
on the high street” by temporarily converting them into social
enterprises, local art displays or learning centres.
Also proposed are special planning application waivers, standard
interim-use leases, and temporarily leasing shops to councils which
will allow empty shops to get makeovers. Councils can also use
licensing powers positively to permit things like farmers markets
that bring local produce to the high street.
All good stuff, but why did we have to wait until the recession hit us
for any government response to the difficulties faced by independent
shops and businesses? Wedge and lots of campaigners have been
banging on about this for a long time. And let's keep it going.