Britain’s ‘ghost towns’ will be turned into community hubs in bid to get our high streets buzzing under new plans

STRUGGLING high streets will be turned into modern community hubs under a rescue plan to be unveiled this week.

Boarded-up shops will be converted into gyms, tearooms, youth clubs and advice centres to breathe new life into “ghost towns”.

 More than 1,800 shops closed their doors in Britain last year

Alamy

More than 1,800 shops closed their doors in Britain last year

Ministers hope the “open doors” project will attract people back into dying city centres – and spark a mini-revival for traders.

Under the plan, landlords of disused shop units will be teamed up with community groups offering key services to younger and older people.

Teams of experts will help strike temporary contract deals to get the high street buzzing once again.

It is hoped the move will also cut crime and tackle other urban problems such as unemployment and loneliness.

 MP James Brokenshire is leading the changes

Reuters

MP James Brokenshire is leading the changes

Minister’s shop vow — James Brokenshire MP

EMPTY shops and decreasing footfall on the high street contribute to social problems such as crime, unemployment and loneliness, while successful high streets can make communities stronger.

That is why this week I am launching the Open Doors project to help regenerate the high street and support community groups. I recognise these challenges are linked.

Our communities and our high streets will not be left behind.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire will reveal full details of when he launches a massive regeneration plan on Wednesday.

More than 100,000 jobs have been lost in town centres over the past three years as the rise of internet shopping drove major retail firms to the wall.

Last year alone, the high street lost a total of 1,800 shops, with major chains such as House of Fraser and BHS falling into administration and retail giants like M&S closing branches.

Bosses blame the rise of Amazon and other online shopping sites – whose overheads are much lower – for driving shoppers away from town centres.

 BHS was one major retailer to be affected

Alamy

BHS was one major retailer to be affected

High Streets were given £1.5billion of help in last week’s Budget, including a cut in business rates for small shopkeepers, relaxation of planning laws and special funding to help transform town centres.

A panel of experts has been assembled to find other ways of helping town centres to survive the internet age – and carve out a new future.

Their blueprint for future high streets will be published soon.

 A boarded up shop in Redcar high street

Getty – Contributor

A boarded up shop in Redcar high street

Mr Brokenshire said: “I’m determined that our communities and our high streets will not be left behind.

“Last week, the Budget provided a raft of measures to redevelop shops and help town centres adapt.

“Small retailers will see their business rates bills cut by a third, saving them up to £900 million over two years.

“These actions will help create a more level playing field for all retailers.”

Two bulky gym-goers brawl in front of children outside Primark on a busy Kent high street following row over who was the strongest

The Sun on Sunday Says

THE death of the high street is a disfiguring scar on the landscape.

So the Government’s injection of cash to counter internet shopping is laudable.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire today tells us of his plan to regenerate town centres.

But he can’t afford to be woolly or lacking in detail, and few will be convinced that a £675million injection into a ‘Future High Street Fund’ will be enough to hold back the tsunami of the internet age.

Good luck, Minister, but give us concrete solutions, not mealy-mouthed platitudes.


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