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COVID-19 has ‘accelerated existing trends’ in Britain’s economy, which includes the decline of the high street, with ‘online shopping, cars and out of town retail parks hav[ing] almost destroyed them’ now.
The report notes that solutions have included a variety of ‘cash pots’ including the towns fund, the levelling up fund and the shared prosperity fund.
However, it proposes that a better answer might lie in changes to planning and powers, arguing that local governments need the authority and expertise to shape what their town centres look like and what amenities best serve their communities.
For example, some high streets may wish to make permanent the al fresco dining of the past year, and others may focus on green space, while some may be best served with new housing.
On the high street, the UK urgently needs something more than a good nationwide tale of GDP and new job openings.
The paper concludes that as local character is important, towns’ futures should therefore ‘be charted by local politicians, not Whitehall’.
The Financial Times - Local governments need the power to save their high streets
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