THE Love Your High Street campaign being championed by The Yorkshire Post, and sister titles, has highlighted the difficulties facing small shops – difficulties acknowledged by Chancellor Philip Hammond with his £1.5bn rescue plan in this week’s Budget to primarily help all those independent stores struggling to pay their business rates in addition to their rent and other overheads.
As well as encouraging consumers to support local stores, the campaign is also helping to shape the growing debate about the future of high streets – and what uses can be found for those buildings which now stand empty. It is given added credence by research by the Royal Society for Public Health which suggests a preponderance of ‘unhealthy’ businesses like fast food outlets, betting shops and off licences is harming the wellbeing of local residents.
It’s a double-edged sword. Some will argue – with reason – that any shop is better than no store at all, but the findings by the RSPH should not be overlooked as local councils are challenged to come up with plans to reinvigorate their town centres and win a share of the Treasury funding that is now available for regeneration plans.
Pop-up shops, start-up offices and new homes all have a role to play – the most successful high streets in the future will be those which innovate now – and there’s a case for political priority being given to those communities highlighted by public health experts. For, if such areas can be made more appealing, the potential economic and health benefits will transcend public policy.