High streets 'have too many shops'

Britain's high streets have twice as many shops as are needed, according to an expert tasked with regenerating the UK's town centres.

UK high streets are saturated, Sir John Timpson warned.
UK high streets are saturated, Sir John Timpson warned.

Sir John Timpson said that town centres were short of housing but had far too many retail outlets, as he unveiled a report which recommended that a locally-driven approach was needed to rejuvenate high streets.

The Town Centres Expert Panel, made up of representatives from the retail, property and design sectors ,called for an ‘Upside Down Government’ approach which would empower local leaders to implement their plans to reinvent their town centres.

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Sir John said: “It’s about communities and creating a hub for entertainment, medical facilities, housing. We probably have about twice as many shops as we need. But we are short of housing.”

He added: “When the panel was formed, we knew high streets would never be the same again, but we were delighted to discover places where imaginative developments have increased footfall and reduced the number of empty shops.

“By helping our towns create their own individual community hub, I believe we will have vibrant town centres to provide a much-needed place for face to face contact in the digital age.”

The panel also recommended immediate measures to help high streets and town centres including a ‘National High Street Perfect Day’ – one day a year where local communities would take ownerships of ensuring their town centre looked as good as possible.

The report praised work already done north of the border by Scotland’s Towns Partnership.

Phil Prentice, chief officer for Scotland's Towns Partnership, said: “Scotlands Towns Partnership welcomes the insight from the Timpson Report into the high street. There has been a lot of progress in terms of thinking since Portas, Grimsey, Fraser and Grimsey II and indeed the Scottish Government announced a £50m town centre boost fund in its recent budget statement last week.

"The upside down government concept is the sort of direction that Scotland has been taking for the last few years and we already have in place many of the recommendations Sir John is agitating for."

He added: "Reinventing high streets will take time and should be based firmly on local decisions and local leaderships. We welcome new learning from this report - the need for funding and champions, new ideas around parking and environmental treatments."

Westminster high streets minister Jake Berry MP said: High streets and town centres play an important role in the life of our communities. We have already taken action by announcing plans to set up a Future High Streets Fund and Task Force, alongside slashing business rates for up to a third of small retailers. We will carefully consider these recommendations.”