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Local shops 'vital' for high streets

INDEPENDENT shops are vital to the revival of Britain's high streets and market towns, suggests a survey.

Nearly eight in ten local people believe local producers – such as a butcher or baker – are critical to the future success of their town centres.

While local shops polled strongly, less than half of local residents (47%) believe that supermarkets had a similar role to play.

The survey was carried out by pollsters ComRes on behalf of the Local Government Association.

The poll was published to coincide with an LGA report containing essays from a series of contributors on the future of high streets.

It comes amid concerns over the clustering of premises such as betting shops and fast food takeaways on high streets.

To tackle this, the LGA is calling for a new 'super' planning class that would give councils the power to stop an over-concentration of certain premises.

It also wants local authorities granted the ability to promote a greater diversity of smaller, independent retailers.

Peter Box, chairman of the LGA economy and transport board, more diversity would provide town centres with greater long term security.

"Residents across the country want to see a diverse range of local shops – such as butchers, clothes shops and post offices – on their high streets.

"Councils are calling on the government to give them greater powers to shape their high streets, and over three quarters of local residents now support them.

"High streets across the UK have suffered a cardiac arrest and it is now time to let local authorities step in and deliver the necessary life support."

Older people felt most strongly about local shops, with 93% of over 65s saying the local grocer or butcher were crucial to high streets.

Some 88% of the same age group said local amenities such as post offices and libraries were important.

The survey also showed that local people are keen for a range of local shops – with post offices, libraries and dry cleaners sought by 74% of respondents.

Retail shops (75%), restaurants and cafes (69%) and newsagents (66%) also score highly, indicating the importance placed on diverse high streets.

Younger people recognised the importance of entertainment, with over half of 18-24 year olds (53%) seeking facilities such as cinemas and bowling alleys.

Some 38% of this younger age group said sports centres could contribute towards the future success of high streets.

Councils are calling for a five-point plan to give high streets a shot in the arm.

Proposals include the means to takeover empty shops, more powers over local transport, local control over apprenticeship schemes and less red tape.

Councils are also keen to work closer with businesses to ensure economic growth remains a priority, for example through Business Improvement Districts.


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