We’ve all seen the effects of the economic downturn on our high streets; empty shop units, chains going into administration like the recent closure of the Game store on York’s high street, and constant sales campaigns.
Research carried out by the Local Government Association, which represents town halls, found that the increased presence of strip clubs, bookies and takeaways on local high streets are slowing down the rejuvenation of high streets and deterring shoppers.
The research carried out by the LGA showed that 76% of council officers who took part in the survey blamed strip clubs for damaging high streets, 69% blamed betting shops, and 45% blamed takeaways.
The majority of council officers who took part in the survey said that a greater diversity in outlets on high streets is essential to encouraging future economic growth. Officers stated that more book and cloth shops, restaurants and cafés, local butchers and bakers, libraries and post offices, and entertainment providers such as cinemas and bowling alleys are key to the future success of high streets.
The increased prevalence of strip clubs, betting shops, and takeaways has been blamed for the decrease in sales and footfall in high streets. High street shoppers and councils have called for the Government to increase the powers of local councils to be able to prevent these types of businesses from taking over certain premises and developing such groupings.
Currently, councils have very limited powers when it comes to stopping high street properties from becoming betting shops, and must give bookies a year’s notice or make substantial payments to close down existing betting shops.
Councils hope to see the introduction of local planning regulations which will allow them to place fast food takeaways and betting shops under local planning powers, providing councils with more control over the development of these outlets. These regulations could also help councils to prevent the concentration of supermarkets in certain areas, and encourage a greater diversity of small, independent retailers.
Vice Chair of the LGA’s Environment and Housing Board, Councillor Clyde Loakes said: “Town halls and local people are calling on the Government to reform the tools available to councils to make local planning decisions that can prevent unwelcome clustering hitting economic growth”.
Charities such as Living Streets, who work towards making the places people live, work, shop and play, safe, attractive and enjoyable, have also called for the Government to take action against the increase in fast food takeaways and betting shops on high streets.
They state that that over half of British adults have seen an increase in takeaways, and a third have seen an increase in bookies on their high streets. Research commissioned by the charity also found that 81% of British adults who were asked think that communities should have a say when the use of a building is changed.
With at least 7 betting shops in or near York’s city centre, a multitude of fast food shops on or around the high street, and the existence of at least two lap dancing or strip clubs in the city centre, what do you think about our local high street? Could more be done to improve and rejuvenate York’s city centre?