Steps to stop recession-hit high streets turning into ghost towns
THE Government today promised measures to stop recession-hit Merseyside high streets turning into ghost towns.
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears will ease local regulations to allow empty shops to be converted into temporary art galleries, learning centres, charity shops and social enterprises.
The aim is to stop the rot whereby boarded-up shop fronts boost a sense of despair, dereliction and vandalism.
She said: “Empty shops can be eyesores or crime magnets.”
She has reached an agreement with city-region councils to slash red tape which can prevent voluntary and community organisations taking them over on short-term leases.
Officials said that the benefit should be seen swiftly in Liverpool, Bootle, St Helens, Southport, Birkenhead and in other smaller town centres both sides of the River Mersey.
Empty premises will also be used to promote local amenities and attractions.
Chester council has already dressed empty stores with banners singing the city’s praises, and Blackpool will follow suit.
Other councils will be urged to use existing powers to permit farmers markets which bring produce to local high streets.
Ms Blears said: “Town and city centres are the heartbeat of every community and local business remain the foundation, so it is vital that they remain vibrant places for people to meet and shop during the downturn.
“Our ideas for reviving town centres will give communities the know-how to temporarily transform vacant premises into something innovative – a social enterprise, a showroom for local artists or a local information centre – and stop the high street being boarded up.”
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, believes artists will jump at the opportunity to display their work in Liverpool.
The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts is already in negotiations to find “creative” ways of using empty shop windows.
The government will shortly introduce new rules to give better protection, through planning regulations and rate deferments, to existing shops, post offices and pubs. THE WIRRAL NEWS