Community ownership key to survival of high streets

A new report has argued that local community access and ownership of key buildings on the UK’s high streets is likely to be pivotal to their future survival.

Power to Change has highlighted how community businesses can help revive the high street’s fortunes, with their report, Saving the High Street: the community takeover, showing that where local authorities have helped facilitate community business ownership and access to both public and privately-owned buildings, it has created more vibrant and resilient high streets.

The research also revealed that economically, community businesses deliver what high streets and local people need. Run by local people who understand their communities, they offer diverse and distinctive services tailored to local requirements. This localism brings a stability to a high street that contrasts with remote corporate businesses more inclined to pull out of areas when business models stop working.

Power to Change is now urging local authorities and statutory funders to do more to support community businesses to grow their presence on high streets. This can be done by: better connecting community businesses with vacant properties on the high street, easing the asset transfer process and supporting ‘meanwhile use’ of buildings and management leases of high street assets directly to trusted community businesses.

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of independent trust Power to Change, said: “Whilst changing retail habits may have kick-started the decline of our high streets, it is the underlying issue of fragmented property ownership and disengaged remote landlords that in the end will choke the life from them if we don’t act now.

“Community ownership is vital to the revival of the high street. Communities not only care passionately about their local area, more importantly they understand the needs of local people and provide distinctive services that meet local needs. This new research shows what can be achieved when local authorities get behind communities and help local people to take ownership over their high street buildings. The results are stable, sustainable and thriving town centres that are in the best possible shape to deal with any future crisis.”