Government plans to hand decision-making powers to communities across the country are now official, after the Localism Act gained Royal Assent last week. The news came just ahead of the Association of Convenience Stores’ Heart of the Community event, where we are launching our three-point plan for high street recovery, chief of which is to introduce new powers for communities to be able to manage the retail mix on their high street.
Communities want more of a say over the kinds of shops opening in their streets, and we think that if government wants to effect change through localism, it should extend the Act to allow communities to restrict the dominance of any one type of business, whatever it is.
We are also calling for government to act on campaigns that we’ve been running this year, including lowering the business rates hike planned for April. A 2% rise in line with government targets as opposed to the 5.6% 10-year high planned will make a major difference to retailers.
Heart of the Community continues to grow in both significance and attendance, and by the time you read this we will have heard from Shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn and Communities Minister Bob Neill talking about planning reforms and other plans that will affect retailers in the coming year.
We know that Mary Portas’ high-street review remains a hot topic, and we’re optimistic that she’ll see things from the local shop point of view when making her recommendations in the next few weeks. This time next year the retail landscape could be dramatically different, but for now we have to wait and see what substance the review brings, and indeed how open government is to listening to their appointed retail champion.