Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Can TV Show Ideals Be a Reality? ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Can TV Show Ideals Be a Reality? ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE

Article excerpt

EARLIER this month the Bizz Bar in South Shields suddenly collapsed. Although planning permission had been sought to refurbish the building, the bar had stood disused for three years.

Before redevelopment plans were realised, the building disintegrated.

The problem of unoccupied properties on North East high streets is not a new one, but the collapse of a building coupled with hype around retail guru Mary Portas' report into high street revival, has really brought the issue to the fore.

Vacancy rates in UK market towns have doubled since December 2009 and one in seven high street shops now stand empty.

The North East has been particularly hard hit, some towns with up to four in 10 shops unoccupied.

For most high streets the risk of a building collapse may not be immediate but the effect of vacant properties can be corrosive over time.

Surrounding shops are undermined and confidence in a high street can quickly wane.

The Government has turned to retail guru Mary Portas to address this decline and independently review the UK's high streets.

Tasked with breathing economic and community life into them, Portas has made a number of wide-ranging recommendations to make town centres more prosperous and diverse.

Proposals include empowering councils to seek Empty Shop Management Orders to enter and restore properties where landlords have been "negligent".

Councils already have powers to undertake work on empty homes and take over their long-term management.

Portas' proposals would extend these powers to include commercial property, enabling them to enter and upgrade vacant premises for the benefit of the high street.

Councils would then be able to rent these vacant properties to generate revenue or use their frontage for advertising.

Where commercial buildings pose a risk to public safety, local authorities already have powers to intervene.

Earlier this year, Swindon's council was able to recover more than pounds 300,000 from the owner of the Mechanics Institute, a listed building in the centre of the town that had been abandoned for many years.

The council entered the building and carried out works on the basis that steps were urgently required for the preservation of the listed building and to remove the danger it posed. …

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