23rd Jun 2023
The Institute of Place Management (IPM) has welcomed new government proposals to take control of long-vacant high street properties but warned that tackling vacancy across England requires more local partnerships to be formed.
The Institute, based at Manchester Metropolitan University and Lead Partner of the High Streets Task Force, has today published a paper on High Street Rental Auctions; a proposed new power for local authorities to take control of persistently vacant properties.
The IPM says “government’s focus on the challenges facing our high streets in general, and on vacancy in particular, is welcome”. However, based on consultation with its members and others currently tackling vacancy in England, the Institute predicts that, unless introduced as part of a wider, partnership-based approach, the new proposals “might be used against barriers to re-letting for only 1 or 2 in every 20 vacant units”.
Partnerships required to drive change
The report’s authors say that High Street Rental Auctions can “provide the impetus to developing a greater understanding” of vacancy, but cite the range of priorities which mean many local authorities cannot currently be proactive and dedicate resource to tackling the high street blight.
Professor Cathy Parker MBE, Chair of the Institute of Place Management, said:
“High Street Rental Auctions are about giving local areas another tool to tackle those problem properties in our towns and cities which are empty for a long time. They are often eye sores and reduce confidence in our high streets, for residents, visitors and investors.”
“These measures would bring us closer to European neighbours like the Netherlands, which imposes fines on absent landlords with vacant properties, and takes a more forward approach to ensuring active frontages in their towns and cities.”
Discussing what else is required to tackle vacant properties, Cathy said:
“These measures can be one part of a culture shift, one that puts places first. However, we also need local organisations to form more partnerships to ensure there is the resource to work with landlords, agents, business, communities and prospective tenants.”
“As we’ve commented in the HSRA report, if partnerships – including Business Improvement Districts, where there is one - can be supported locally and they’re backed up by this new legislation setting a strong tone for action, then we will see the best results”.
The Institute held roundtables with its members in 2022 and works with a number of local authorities and other stakeholders like Business Improvement Districts that are tackling vacancy.
'High Street Rental Auctions:
Iain Nicholson, Strategic Development Lead at IPM and Founder of The Vacant Shops Academy, said:
“There are some basic principles we would encourage for local authorities to get to grips with vacancy, such as gathering data on property ownership, occupation and barriers to letting, and establishing agent and landlord forums to generate action.”
“We know how to bring down vacancy and improve the mix of uses in our town and city centres, but there are no quick fixes, and, ultimately, filling vacant units is about working together and confidence in a medium to long term vision for the high street and those that lead it.”
Respond to government consultation:
The government consultation on the proposed HSRA measures is still open until 7th July and can be accessed at gov.uk: