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MPs’ probe into ailing town centres

Committee invite submissions to consider online threat and how High Streets are changing


MPs ARE investigating how to revive England’s ailing town centres which are under increasing threats from online shopping and the financial problems facing some bigger retailers.

The Guardian reported yesterday, Thursday, May 10, that the housing, communities and local government committee have invited submissions to an inquiry that will consider what High Streets and town centres could look like by 2030.
Clive Betts, the Labour MP chairing the committee, said: “Our High Streets and town centres have an important social, civic and cultural place in our society but many are now struggling, facing a range of challenges including the threat posed by online retailers.
“Changing trends and behaviours in recent decades – driven by a range of economic, demographic, social and technological factors – have affected the prosperity and vibrancy of our High Streets.”
The MPs’ inquiry will also consider whether councils have the correct planning, licensing, tax-raising and other tools needed to help local areas.
The committee said they will welcome the views of the public on why their High Street matters and what improvements could be made.
The newspaper also reported that Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of Debenhams, who are closing eight of their 165 UK department stores and talking to landlords about reducing space at 30 others, warned on Wednesday, May 9, that onerous leases in town centres are “killing more and more retailers”.
Sir Ian said the current system, with business rates based on property values and many retailers still wrestling with landlord agreements that include upwards-only rent reviews, gave online-only retailers such as Amazon an unfair advantage.
“What you’re seeing is retail facing more change in the past three years than in the previous 20 ... It’s a big structural shift which is basically saying old models have to be reinvented,” he said. “If you’re starting out now you’d have much less space, much more online and much more flexibility. No one will now be signing 20-year leases.”

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