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Eric Pickles launches package of support for local shops

The government has set out a billion pound package of support for the UK’s high streets which it says will make it easier for high street shops to grow, expand and take people on.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Eric Pickles launches package of support for local shops

The measures, announced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, include a new consultation to tackle aggressive parking policies, a review of double yellow lines, legislating to allow “grace periods” and stopping CCTV being used for enforcement. The government will also cap increases in parking penalty charges for the rest of this Parliament.

The announcement follows the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in which it was confirmed that ministers have agreed to cap business rates at 2% in 2014-15. Other changes include:

  • a £1,000 discount in 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000 - including shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants
  • extending the doubling of the Small Business Rates Relief to April 2015
  • a reoccupation relief for 18 months with a 50% discount for new occupants of retail premises empty for a year or more 
  • allowing businesses to pay their bills over 12 months (rather than 10), to help firms with their cashflow.

The importance of online technology has also been recognised with a new multi-million pound competition, run by the Technology Strategy Board, being announced to support business-led digital town centres. Additionally the government in partnership with business will fund £4.7 million of research on e-commerce and digital high streets innovations.

In planning, changes to permitted development rights will offer town centres the flexibility to adapt existing buildings. In addition, the government will consult on permitting change of use from retail to restaurants and retail to cinemas, gyms, skating rinks and swimming pools. It will also consult on allowing installation of mezzanine floors in retail premises where this would support the town centre.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said: "The way we use our high streets is changing and the measures unveiled today give councils more power to reflect that in the way their high streets look and operate.

"New tax breaks for shops and sensible changes to over zealous parking rules will help make high streets more attractive to shoppers. And by providing excellent local services and offering communities a vibrant place to spend their leisure time and money, local authorities can secure the future of their high streets for many years to come."

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