According to the Daily Mail, landlords will be forced to let out commercial sites that have been vacant for longer than six months under new powers set to be introduced as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and announced in the Queen’s Speech next month.
The proposals would allow community groups and small businesses to take over boarded-up properties in a bid to try and rejuvenate town centres that have been decimated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Government source told the Mail: "The Government’s mission to level up will breathe new life into these great towns and end the scourge of boarded- up shops sucking the soul out of once-bustling high streets."
Local authorities will be able to force landlords to rent out commercial property on high streets through a Compulsory Rental Auction.
After a short grace period for landlords to fill the shop, local authorities will be able to instigate an auction, inviting bids from interested parties.
Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, Sacha Lord, said that repurposing empty outlets into retail, leisure or hospitality premises would not only aid town centre recovery but also encourage the public to shop local.
"This regeneration strategy has already worked in countless areas of Greater Manchester and I’m pleased that the Government has recognised that much-needed action is now required to support our high streets," he added.
Across the country, one in seven shops is sitting empty according to latest figures from the British Retail Consortium. The north-east of England has the highest vacancy rate, with one in five closed.
Wetherspoons chief executive Tim Martin also welcomed the plan, but called for further support for high streets, urging the Government to address the tax imbalance between hospitality businesses and supermarkets.
"Unless the Government grasps this nettle, its high street initiatives will be doomed to failure," he said.
"Tax equality is the elixir that will encourage people to convert boarded-up shops into tax-paying employment-generating businesses."