Take Back the High Street: Putting communities in charge of their own town centres

This report by Power to Change sets out the case to action a shift in control and ownership of high streets, giving power back to the communities. It suggests this can unlock real, long-term and sustainable local economic development, and that community ownership is - in many places - the only route to such development.

Date added 23 July 2020
Last updated 23 July 2020

This report encourages a shift in mindset to centralise communities as the priority stakeholder on the high street, and even the preferred landlord. It sets out the case to action a change in control and ownership of the high street, suggesting that giving power back to communities can unlock real, long-term and sustainable local economic development. When referring to ‘communities’, the report defines this as:

“organisations, groups and businesses which are more or less tethered to a specific place and whose main purpose is to serve members of the community in which they are based (howsoever ‘service’ is defined)”.

The report illustrates several examples of results of such a shift and how community control can directly address challenges faced by UK high streets such as vacancies, dereliction and neglect, high rents, lack of diversity, lack of responsiveness to community need, and local economic decline. It focuses on demonstrating how community-owned assets are financially resilient and thus in turn sustainable.

However, the report also outlines barriers that prevents communities from taking ownership of their high streets such as high rent, current fragmented and opaque ownership, high property prices, lack of clear governance role for community-led and community-rooted organisations and lack of capacity.

The report therefore recommends that communities need stronger rights, especially where absent landlords are leaving properties to deteriorate and causing decline on the high street. It also recommends that the Government should earmark funding to support community-led organisations to take on buildings and land that matter to them in their town centres. This way, local authorities can support communities and give them greater influence in their place.