Dealing with empty shops

The LGA commissioned We Made That to produce this good practice guidance that can be used by councils to help enact change and tackle vacancy on high streets and in town centres.

Empty shops purple banner

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have resulted in a significant impact on high streets and town centres across the UK, although the challenge of vacancy has been apparent for a number of years. Combined with long-term trends affecting retail, such as increases in online sales and a growing focus on the ‘experience economy’, the impact is that many high street businesses are reducing their presence in town centres or closing altogether, leaving vacant property in their wake with negative long-term consequences for these places.

"Many high street businesses are reducing their presence in town centres or closing altogether, leaving vacant property in their wake"

The LGA commissioned We Made That to produce this good practice guidance that can be used by councils to help enact change and tackle vacancy on high streets and in town centres. The document highlights and contextualises past and current vacancy trends, details hard and soft powers available to councils, and presents the following action framework of different methods councils have used to tackle vacancy. Specific and detailed good practice case studies from areas across the UK are presented within this framework to further illustrate each method.

  • Business/grant funding.
  • Direct council delivery.
  • Restoration.
  • Meanwhile use/pop up.
  • Business support.
  • Policy intervention.
  • Change of use.
  • Redevelopment.

This guidance presents good practice case studies within a framework for tackling vacancy. It presents an approach to vacancy as an existing challenge, rather than preventative measures. This guidance was written in early 2021, and whilst contemporary data regarding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been used, the full extent of its influence remains to be seen. 


Case studies

Business/grant funding

Telford & Wrekin Council

Warrington Borough Council

Kent County Council

Direct council delivery

Bath and North East Somerset Council

Restoration

Sunderland City Council

Leicester City Council

Meanwhile use/pop-up

Cheshire East Council

Isle of Wight Council

Business support

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Haringey Council

Policy intervention

Basildon Council

Change of use

Shropshire Council

Sheffield City Council

Redevelopment

Milton Keynes Council

Leicester City Council