The future of the High Street

Some High Streets were suffering badly  before the anti virus policies closed down most of the shops.  More people were buying more things on line. More were travelling to the best shopping centres to enjoy the choice and facilities they afford. Secondary and tertiary locations and ageing centres were losing custom and losing businesses. There were more empty properties and more rent reductions.

Investment in improving High Streets, relentless promotion of a location with events, discount and loyalty schemes and good restaurant and  café back up were all important ways to retain life and footfall. Some succeeded, others were floundering. There was too much retail space for the customer base overall. As a result retail chains were shedding shops in marginal locations, and at the edges of Town Centres and shopping malls some property was gradually being converted to new uses. The process of conversion was slow because the shops were still expensive and commanding relatively high rents compared to alternative use values.

The damage done to shop retailers by the closures is two fold. There is the lost revenue, making investment in shop improvement and in stock more difficult to afford. There is the diversion of business from shops to on line,  some of which may be difficult to reclaim.  The issue becomes, what are shops now worth?

A simplified way of valuing a shop is to take the rent paid and multiply that by a  number of years purchase to get a capital value of the property. Let’s take a case of two shops with rental income of £25,000 a year. One is in Smart City, the other larger unit is in Troubled Town. The Smart City unit might have been valued in February on a 5% rental income, or 20 years purchase. It would have had a capital value of £500,000. The Troubled Town Unit might have only commanded a 10% income yield or ten years purchase, giving a capital value of £250,000.

Let us suppose that both were independent shops, and  both have now notified their landlords they cannot afford to pay any rent for the time being. At the very least they want a rent holiday for the period of closure, followed by a rent reduction to reflect lower earning potential in a recovery period to follow the end of lock down.

So what are these shops now worth? What discount should you apply to the past rent to allow for the likelihood that a deal has to be done for lower rent? Might it be that the unit in Smart City still has a retail future at a lower rent, but the unit in Troubled Town does not? Do the values of either  now fall to a level where conversion to another use is viable?

And what outcome would you like to see for these two independent traders and two shop units?

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219 Comments

  1. Stephen Priest
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    It’s time to scrap the Sunday trading laws and allow shops to open when it suits them.

    Churches argue that this ruins Sunday for families. I say if you want go out on a Sunday it would be most likely be between 10am-4pm, when shops are open on Sunday.

    I

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      Indeed, if shops could open longer you would need far fewer of them. It would be more efficient use of the asset. If the religious want to go to church and be indoctrinated fine but they should not be allowed to order others about (not even their own children perhaps). Laws on employing teenager on Sundays are also very restrictive & damaging. It is good for teenager to get work experience in a cafe, shop or similar.

      Get the Bishops out of the Lords they have nothing remotely sensible to say and do much harm.

      • glen cullen
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Get religion out of our state politics altogether

        • Lifelogic
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

          +1

          I cannot see this Corona Virus contact app working certainly not in busy cities and block of flats. Blue tooth has too long a range. On a typical london commute you are going to be links thousands (everone you pass on this side of the street and ever the other side and all the cars you pass. You will get endless notifications of close contacts.

          • zorro
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

            I wonder if that is the idea….

            zorro

      • Ed M
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Also, Prospero is a great example of man in general / Renaissance man / political leaders who try to control nature without divine grace – and the natural world (including themselves) becomes chaotic and turns on them. But with divine grace, the natural world becomes something positive and beautiful, leading to arguably the most beautiful words ever written in the English language by the monster Caliban (who represents both the natural world and man – one moment without divine grace and the next moment with divine grace):

        ‘Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
        Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
        Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
        Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
        That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
        Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
        The clouds methought would open, and show riches
        Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
        I cried to dream again.’

        • Ed M
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          So traditional Christianity is very much about trying to supernaturalise the natural world with divine grace – it is NOT against the natural world or in opposition to it (this is heresy – connected very much with the terrible heresy of gnosticism).

    • Bryan Harris
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Sunday trading laws were not for the benefit of churches, but they were certainly a nail in the coffin for many churches.

      I personally like the notion that Sunday is a different day without the same hustle and bustle of every other day – It should be a quieter day. It marks the end of a week.

      Think of the people who have to supply services throughout the week – I’m sure they would appreciate an easier day on Sunday…. A bit like when we had half day closing on Wednesdays…

      • bigneil(newercomp)
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        Electricity people
        Gas supply people
        Water supply people
        Hospitals, Ambulances, the relevant staff
        Fire Service
        Coastguard
        Airports
        Pilots etc
        Air traffic control
        TV
        Radio
        Cinemas
        Lorry drivers who have to deliver first thing on a Monday, driving overnight.
        Vehicle breakdown
        etc
        All work Sundays AND Bank Holidays.
        I used to work a rota that covered 24/7/365 – in a factory. The first 19 years there I worked Xmas day AND Boxing day. It was much cheaper for the company ( paying us treble time plus hiring Security staff in ) than the shutting down and restarting the production lines.

        • Bryan Harris
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

          Yes, and I agree that some production needs to keep going .. I’ve worked shifts and bank holidays etc – I still want to see Sunday as a quieter day

        • czerwonadupa
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

          Postmen.
          But I thought shopping had become the new religion in the UK for some time now.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      It might be worth looking at property law rather than trading law.

      This feudal legacy of leasehold title is a licence to print money – by extortion, in effect – for freehold owners of premises in good trading positions, such as may remain.

      The holding companies have many areas completely sown up.

      If that were solved, then subsequently fair rents laws could have real teeth. As it stands freeholders could circumvent them by selling an estate in land, a lease.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        You have this completely wrong. Tenants and Landlords enter into free contracts many tenants are now evading their obligation by prepackaged liquidations and buy backs.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted May 4, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          Oh, from a landlord’s or a lessor’s point of view, I don’t doubt for one moment that in their view I have.

      • BeebTax
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        Upward only rent reviews have been a problem. Without them, rents can be settled according to the then prevailing market rate, so if the rents on new lets are falling, then the rents of existing lets can fall. That’s not always a perfect solution, as a single let at a high figure can distort rent settlements in the vicinity.

        The fairest rents in my view are turnover based, which in effect create a partnership between landlord and tenant. They are, though, tricky to set up and police. The landlord has to do a lot of homework on his prospective tenant, and have a high degree of trust in the financial information provided before and after the lease commences. If one could smooth that process it would useful.

        • Lynn Atkinson
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

          Turnover is irrelevant. It’s all about profit!

        • John E
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          Yes I was going to make the same comment that rents should be turnover based. Our system of upward only rent reviews doesn’t apply anywhere else in the world. It is clearly not a free market approach, it is imposed by a cartel of property owners. One or more of them needs to break ranks for a free market to exist.

          • Lynn Atkinson
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

            So slaughterhouses turn over tens of millions on a margin of 2% and you want to charge them rent by turnover!

          • Lifelogic
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            Contract are a matter to be decided by landlords and tenants. The state should keep well out of it.

            Reply I did not suggest state involvement. I was talking about what the market is likely to do.

          • Ed M
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

            The cartel will no longer work.

            It’s now much easier for companies to set up shop outside London, in smaller towns nearby – Oxford, Cambridge, Winchester, Bath etc .. The technology is now in place to make communication with others – from work and with customers, easier. Cheaper rents. Cheaper to live. Nice places to live etc .. With the coronavirus affecting so many companies, it now makes more sense to move out of London to where it is cheaper / less financial overheads. I don’t want this to happen. I love London. But it will, if landlords don’t get more realistic.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          If you do not want an “upward only” tenancy then do not sign up for one. But you will probably have to pay more rent here and now for one – it s your choice. Or buy the freehold yourself!

      • Rodney Atkinson
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        This is rubbish. We landlords are powerless against
        The Landlord and Tenant act gave tenants the right to
        Occupy our property even when a lease comes to an end.
        Most tenants on the high street are very big companies –
        far far bigger than me. The latest coronavirus crisis
        Legislation has given them the absolute right not to pay
        Rent which further ramps up thrir power over the
        landlord. For a decade of economic impoverishment
        and falling rents business rates continued to rise and
        when Business failed the landlord had to pay the rates
        even when he had no income. Billions left the poorest
        regions to the privileged South East.

        • anon
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

          Why should landlords not pay business rates or a land value tax. It is a business asset on benefiting from that location for its value. The asset can be sold if no tenant can be found? How else will the market clear?

          Feudal Leasehold needs to be abolished within the residential sector for sure. It still exists.Why?

          • Lynn Atkinson
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

            How about landlords not paying business rates on empty shops because there is no business operating? No business that makes no money pays tax – if they make no money they give up the property and stop paying business rates.

            How would you like to lose your job and be taxed by the Government for not working?

            Try to sell an ‘asset’ that makes no money (because you cant let it) and costs £80,000 pa in rates. That’s why you pay a charity to occupy the shop – to relieve you of the business rates. Some CHARITIES ARE SO RICH THEY BUY THE HIGH STREET PROPERTIES FOR PEANUTS. Local Authorities, whose rates have bankrupted the capitalists, have also been buying up prime properties for zilch. If that is not contingent corruption, I don’t know what is.

          • Peter Parsons
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

            It still exists because of the vested interest of large freeholders (some of whom happen to write large cheques to one particular political party).

            Residential leasehold needs to be replaced with commonhold.

            How many residential leaseholders know that the (typically) 6 figure sum that they paid for the property in which they are living doesn’t mean they actually own it?

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      I think the Sunday trading laws are kept in place more by the unions than the churches, so as to give shop workers the right to a day off.

      To make Sunday a day of rest it needs more than trading laws, you would need to close down sporting events, TV and internet. Would such a day of reflection spent with the family be good for society?

      The churches in their zeal have never advocated the day of rest to extend to hospitals or giving the police the day off.

    • Peter
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Structural changes added to the short-sighted greed of local councils and the rentier class will kill off much of the High Street.

      Many now shop online for various reasons. Convenience is one. Price and selection choice is another. Some will inspect a product in a ‘bricks and mortar’ store on a High Street and then make a purchase online. This is particularly unhelpful to small independent shopkeepers who lose business but act as an unpaid showroom for others.

      Local councils see parking as a huge revenue source but pretend their main interest is in sensible traffic control.

      Landlords are slow to face reality and continue to price gouge on rents in the face of falling demand. It is the same in the pub industry which they have also managed to ruin. Large pub companies have a stranglehold over many small pubs and extract huge rents and even control what beers they sell and what price they have to pay for it.

      So sadly prospects for the High Street are grim, which is a great shame as it is also an important social centre for communities.

      Paradoxically, this will go hand in hand with rampant consumerism. It was amusing to see the siege mentality of shoppers with even bigger queues on Easter weekend just because the stores were actually going to close for the day on Easter Sunday! Half day closing in the middle of the week was routine in the 1950s and 1960s. Shops were also closed on Sunday of course. I don’t think we suffered because of this. It was a more structured, less hectic pattern of life. Though I do find it amusing that a poster called Priest is arguing for Sunday trading to be exactly the same as other days of the week.

    • Christine
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      + 1

    • Ed M
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      @Stephen,

      Most people want (and certainly if they thought more about it) a day off from the rat-race (where everything shuts down except for essential services). The Sabbath isn’t just about worship of God (of course it is – for Christians) it’s also about good mental health (whether Christian or atheist). In fact, without shutting the country down, once a week, except for essential services, then you just worse the overall mental health of this country that costs the countries billions in terms of The Health Service, people being unproductive at work, family break-up, crime etc .. There’s loads of scientific evidence for this. Loads of atheists and secularists would agree.

      If we want to build up a proper economy, let’s not rely on desperate measures where we have to keep the rat-race going 24/7. Everyone – Christian / atheist – needs a break – peace and quiet, to rest and relax the brain and body, to be ready for the next 6 tough days ahead.

    • JoolsB
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Sunday trading hours would have been extended in 2016 when MPs voted on it if Scots MPs hadn’t voted against because they didn’t want the competition from shops the other side of the border because of course the bill only applied to England and Wales as Scotland already enjoys extended Sunday trading hours. Yet again Scots MPs were allowed to vote on and be the deciding factor on what was an England or England & Wales only bill and yet again our pathetic useless spineless UK MPs squatting in English seats uttered not one word of protest.

    • Andy
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      The Conservative Party has repeatedly blocked changes to Sunday trading laws. I don’t care about any god and stay as far away from churches as I can. Religion is frequently poison after all.

      But I don’t stop people going to church if they want. I shouldn’t be stopped from going shopping on Sunday if I want. Providing workers can specify one day a week which is religiously significant for them and they are allowed to take that day off then there is no issue here. Open the shops on Sunday.

      • Malcolm Parkin
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        I think it is rather nice that Sunday is observed in England. The multiples and large shops are open on Sunday in Scotland.

        • Cheshire Girl
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          Malcolm.

          I agree. I remember when nothing was open on a Sunday. It wasn’t that great, but Sundays are now just like any other day. I don’t think thats a great improvement, to be honest.

          • Fred H
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:40 am | Permalink

            Sunday was a terribly boring day as a child and teenager – even in twenties and married.
            Extreme protection of Sundays will result in open warfare – children to parents – over electronics. Children will scream over any attempt to deprive them of screen time all day long.

      • Ed M
        Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        @Andy,

        ‘But I don’t stop people going to church if they want. I shouldn’t be stopped from going shopping on Sunday if I want.’

        – This is a strawman argument. It’s a false dichotomy.

        Christians support shopping and the production of quality and useful and beautiful products and brands as much as anyone else (for earthly work can be good and blessed – as well as necessary – based on WORK ETHIC – we don’t want to produce and sell shoddy stuff!). Christians aren’t new. They were around in Medieval Europe creating beautiful objects too, and Christian merchants who set up Venice and travelled along the Silk Road (and before)! Christians know about shopping and trade and making good stuff!

        Also, lots of non-religious people support the Sabbath. Not for religious reasons but because it makes perfect good common-sense for everyone to take a rest from the rat-race (you want to go shopping, fine, but the man and woman behind the til might have to work then when they would rather be at home with their family – although it’s not black-and-white from an individual POV hut it is black-and-white regarding the accumulative effect on a country in general). There’s lots of scientific evidence that shows we all need to rest and relax our minds and brands. If not, this can have costly results on mental and physical health and also on how productive we are at work, as well as all sorts of problems – costing the tax payer more money. And this is also one of the reasons for the Sabbath for Christians and Jews too – just to relax (although of course it involves worship to God too – they both overlap). The ancient Jews were smart people – they intuitively knew what modern science tells us today.

        • Ed M
          Posted May 5, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          And the Christian merchants of Venice built a kind of Paradise on Earth – both beautiful religious and secular buildings along the canals, great arts, and food and festivals and traditions. Strong family life. Strong sense of patriotism and so on.

          The Venitian merchants were far from perfect. There was also a lot of corruption and greed – as in ALL civilisations. But the (traditional) Christian roots and heritage is absolutely clear too.

    • Malcolm Parkin
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      The shops would be valued on a passing rent basis and the proximity of the next review and the likelihood of getting a rent increase at that review.
      If those points are in doubt then the value would be open market, and could only be ascertained by offering the shop for rent.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    The government should lower or abolish rates bills and stop mugging motorists with high parking charges and fines. Also they should allow a change to use without needing planning approvals (where they are still needed). Get the government out of the way. This is the solution as usual.

    • Ed M
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      @Lifelogic,

      Ugly buildings have ruined our towns and high streets.
      The problem isn’t planning but planners with no understanding of aesthetics (and aesthetics is important – Steve Jobs based the success of his Apple brand as much on aesthetics – the beauty of his brands – as on high quality technology).

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        That and by making them very expensive rather (like posh perfumes or fancy car brands) so they become the one to have and be seen with. People who are concerned with appearances (and have the money) will not be seen with anything else. All my family wife and three children have Apple Phone and Laptops (not me though) but I still had to pay for them alas!

        The once people are used to one brand and all their mates at school are they stick with it.

    • Tom Rogers
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      I have to say, I agree. We have to let the market decide, but that means removing unnecessary government costs and interference. One aspect of the Thatcher project needs to be resumed: the structural dismantling of the Left. This may require privatisation of local government in England. Replace it with a commissioning system.

      Below I expand on this in a different direction: our attitude to ‘failure’.

  3. Mark B
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Putting recent events to one side, I would argue two things. First, let the market decide. Secondly, for the landlord they have to ask themselves, “Is it better to have half a loaf that no loaf ?” The landlord is in the game to provide a service and, to profit from that service. It is a tough call and one that can not be easily answered here. Perhaps those like LL might provide better insight.

    From the ashes new business will grow. What is important, is that government does not do anything that is going to inhibit this. As old markets die, new ones will develop. This is evident with online shopping. Local and national governments have been too keen to take more and more, and not only that, to put up barriers to private enterprise such as parking restrictions. As a result both local and national governments will see less money coming in. This is the price you pay for being too greedy.

    As I keep saying – Less is more !

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I agree. The market works better without the influence and the desire of authorities figures wishing to manipulate it. One mans dispensation is another’s un-equal burden.

      I would, add the imposition of business rates is also a drag on the system. Rates are a tax and taxes should be equal on ability to pay. A large high turnover store pays less than a specialist store – due to some odd correlation, based not on the store size or its turnover but how much frontage a shop has to the street.

      On-line sales get a pass, as there is no high street frontage. Surely an equal tax on all based on the value of sales would be more realistic

  4. Everhopeful
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Local councils have relentlessly and purposely closed down the High Streets. Often no doubt following EU directives and sometimes just following their own ultra left wing beliefs.
    Parking in town became a problem when masses of housing estates were chucked up in surrounding countryside. And those houses were never really needed except for “relocation” ( to allow more and more people to be shovelled into cities).
    There were even TV soaps that encouraged townies to relocate. “ The Newcomers”.
    Buses into town were cut.
    Parking was made impossible.
    Traditional markets which drew people into town on a Saturday morning were closed…raised to the ground actually.
    Town centres became less safe and the now oh-so-busy police did nothing.
    And then once the madness gained momentum and they built supermarkets on the fields, all was lost.
    Here, it took 30 years for one exceptionally nasty supermarket to close down just about all local shops. In fact…once we had a High Street here …and now we don’t. Most of the shops have been turned into houses.
    And now that supermarket is a run-down shadow of its former self that can’t even feed people during their imprisonment.
    It’s globalisation …innit? An out-of-control capitalist monster that is consuming itself. A filthy race to the bottom that is taking us all with it and exposing us to an uncertain future.
    Or as one laid-off docker remarked…” Who is going to buy the goods ( he may have justifiably said “cr*p) in that container when we no longer have wages?”
    The powers that be think they have the answer…helicopter money….Oh yes…that’ll work.

    • a-tracy
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      I agree Everhopeful, and who is it that the Government have allowed to stay open – Supermarkets! We are being herded, everyone’s comfy in their pile of poo at the moment so no-ones rattling the cage. Why aren’t we being told where the new patients being admitted are from? Have they been working or not?

      Large in-Town Supermarkets close down all the local family bakers, butchers, florists, family corner shops, and the cash and carries that supplied all these family businesses, the local abattoirs, then they started getting into selling electrical items and closed those small shops down, now they’re elbowing in to clothes. Their car parks are free whereas other car parks put in a hefty parking penalty to encourage everyone in to these soulless impersonal, and possibly Covid queue traps (who knows it’s the only place people are allowed to gather now)!

      • Everhopeful
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Yes..exactly. Totally correct.
        We also noticed that.
        Ours even started selling cars! Yes really ( just for a while) and shut down several small local dealers.
        And now so many of the goods they stocked in order to shut down small shops are nowhere to be seen!
        And supermarkets played a part in the loss of Sundays and Bank Holidays as days of rest for all.

      • Barry
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        “Large in-Town Supermarkets close down all the local family bakers, butchers, florists, family corner shops”

        Surely it was the customers who did it?

        • a-tracy
          Posted May 4, 2020 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          Barry, Short-sighted customers who are now paying the price for this as their choice reduced, Supermarket own brand bargains have started to affect other branded products and cut their market share too, fresh meat counters that once closed down the local family butchers now only offer pre-packed awful meat from goodness knows where. Those customers that made Supermarket choices now don’t get footfall from people like me and the town died but Councillors shouldn’t scratch their heads wondering why it happened, they allowed the supermarket to sell just about anything they wanted in store, where in the past they’d decide how many butchers they’d rent to, or how many bakers they thought their town could support and rent to.

          If customers only want two or three local large supermarkets then they get that in their town centre and that is all that survives as they pick off one by one shop after shop with no control on amelioration from the Council that controls other shop creation. My local town centre died as footfall reduced outside of the supermarkets whose car parks only allow people a couple of hours free parking so you can’t fit in a restaurant lunch with your shopping, or a long browse around other shops.

    • Andy
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Which EU directives have councils followed to close down high streets? This is what you said – please point us to such directives.

      The comment you made is the sort of dangerous, fraudulent nonsense which really needs to be called out.

      Our high streets are struggling. Most of the fault for that actually lies with consumers for not using them – and then with local and national governments for failing to manage change.

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        You know Andy this is an interesting question at first you’d think the EU wouldn’t be interested in the retail sector but it remits a high amount of EU vat a quick google search reveals a lot of europa information for me to browse in the sunshine 🌞 “All ten biggest retail companies in the EU are multinational and some of them have shops in the majority if not all of the 28 Member States.” It’s very interesting that two of our biggest new supermarkets expanding at a rate of knots are German. Now I wonder how many British for taxation purposes supermarkets are there in Germany or France as such a high % of disposable income is spent each week in this market. As I said I think Supermarkets, Out of Town shopping village experiences and online have a lot to do with High Street decline and the retirement age of lots of shopkeepers who just close down than were able to sell into declining footfall shopping centres.

        • Andy
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          So you are blaming planning rules – UK planning rules – for out of town supermarkets. What’s that got to do with EU directives? Nothing.

          Supermarkets are interesting. Waitrose, M&S, Sainsbury, Co-op are all majority British owned. A majority of all of their customers voted Remain.

          Iceland, Asda, Aldi and Lidl are all mostly foreign owned. A majority of their customers voted Leave. Morrisons is the only British owned major supermarket chain whose customers voted Leave.

          Tesco customers were split 50/50.

          So it seems the anti-globalists are the ones who send their profits overseas. And the liberal elite are the ones who fund Britain. Who knew?

          • Edward2
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Have you got any data to prove your obvious prejudices?

          • a-tracy
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

            Andy “The retail sector is highly regulated in most Member States. Often, retail is subject to regulations at national, regional and local level. When they restrict the freedom of establishment or the free provision of services in the retail sector, Member States need to ensure that their rules are compatible with the EU law. ”

            I was enjoying a read but the weather turned and I went inside and watched a film instead, but this is now on my reading list because I’m curious :). I was never asked about my vote by supermarket I use when and who did that survey? How bizarre.

        • hefner
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

          The 2018 percentages of trade by various supermarkets are:
          Tesco 27.4
          Sainsbury 15.4
          Asda 15.3
          Morrisons 10.3
          Aldi 7.6
          Lidl 5.6
          Waitrose 5.2
          Iceland 2.1.
          To go to 100% one needs to add up a number of smaller food retailers (Budgens, Co.Op, Farmfoods, M&S, Ocado, …).

          So yes Aldi and Lidl have gained parts in the UK food market over the last ten years but it is only around 15-16%. Is that not a proof of a working free market?

          • Edward2
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

            That is just their market share.
            Which is well known.
            But thanks hef.
            Andy was trying to show that some supermarkets only have remain supporting customers whilst others only have leave supporting customers.
            Seems a bit unlikely to me.

          • hefner
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

            Edward2, I agree with your point about customers. I would think most people tend to go to the most convenient store for them, either by distance, by parking availability and cost, or by product choice and/or price range.

          • a-tracy
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            Thank you, as I indicated two of our biggest ‘new supermarkets’ are German, but do you know if British owned supermarkets have similar size markets in Germany and France? Then I can answer if we have a ‘working’ to our advantage as well ‘free market’.

          • hefner
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

            A-tracy, There is interesting information on nrf.com, in particular ‘The top 50 global retailers’. For food, appearing as ‘Mass/Hyper’ the table lists the companies according to value of trading ($bn) and number of stores:
            1. Walmart (US) Asda in the UK 510.3 bn
            7, Carrefour (F) 89.8
            8. Aldi (G) 91.9
            10. Auchan (F) 60.2
            16. Tesco (UK) 76

            M&S had from the end of the ‘90s opened a number of stores in France, Germany and other EU countries. However in France it had to close most of those stores in the ‘10s keeping only a few within Paris ‘intra-muros’.
            It was a similar story for Tesco in France: it had up to 92 stores there between 1993 and 1997. After 1997 it kept only one in Paris, which closed in 2010.
            etc ed

    • Everhopeful
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      * razed to the ground

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    The Telegraph today reports that Statistics from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Office suggest that only 10% of people who have died from Covid received intensive care. Not sure if this is 10% of those who reached hospital or 10% of all Covid deaths.

    So about 25,000 people have died without going to hospital and about 90% of the 50,000 (or of just the hospital deaths?) who have died were not even given intensive care? Is this really true? Not surprising given this that the Nightingale Hospitals are largely empty.

    Yet Boris and Hancock keep saying the NHS has not denied anyone treatment and has coped throughout.

    Boris was rather luck to get any intensive care at all then?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      What is the comparable figure for Germany where mortality rates appear to be only about 1/6 of the UK’s I wonder?

    • SM
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Had you ever considered that giving many patients any kind of intensive care can be pointless, or is more cruel than kind? Or that death in patients with severe co-morbidities can be utterly unexpected and instantaneous?

      You have demonstrated time and again your ignorance about ventilators and their dangers, as well as suggesting medications that are now causing more problems than benefits, and prefer to feed hysteria than take on board any information that gainsays your addiction to hyperbole.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Of course I have and they can clearly opt out, and in some cases it might indeed be totally pointless. But if these figures are right then 90% of people who died anyway were not given full ventilation even as a last resort! Surely more than that should have been?

        This when it seems about 35% of people do survive it? Why does Germany have mortality at 1/6 of the UK? It is a huge difference even if they do test more and so detect more cases as the denominator.

      • anon
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Feeding hysteria. Seems LL has reasonable questions to me.
        In relation to the 25,000 or so who have died in hospital and likely the same outside.

        Please provide a guarantee that all were considered for non-invasive & invasive treatment at the appropriate time. Perhaps not just as an emergency admission.

        Not everyone would have been monitored as closely like Boris was (thankfully) pre-admission.

        Maybe oxygen and a drug cocktail would have been enough? for others at a much earlier stage.

        Can you provide evidence that withholding a drug cocktail would have negatively effected the 25,000 who died in hospital & those outside without it?

        Time may give us some answers.

        However choice between Doctor and Patient should paramount where the resource exists? Not some top down we know best approach from some random “civil servant” in favour at the time.

    • JoolsB
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      As much as I like Boris, one has to wonder did he get special treatment that many others would not have received. Apparently residents of care homes have been asked to sign do not resuscitate forms should they succumb to the virus. Is this true John?

      • Fedupsoutherner
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Jools perhaps, if they were very elderly and frail they were specifically asked if they would want that level of intervention. I know my mother wouldn’t have. She asked to sign a DNR and this was before Covid. Some are simply tired of life and welcome a way out.

        • M Davis
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          I feel that my neighbour, who was 76 yrs old, who refused a blood transfusion two weeks before she died and also refused a blood transfusion on the day that she died, had wanted to die. She had been reluctant to eat in the weeks leading up to it, when pressed by her friends. That was her right and I believe that my mother also, at the age of 89 yrs wanted to die when she did.

          On the other hand, my Son who was in hospital recently, wasn’t even aware that he had been given a form that said DNR until he got home! Apparently he hadn’t signed the form but it is quite frightening to find that you may not have been resuscitated when you could not even remember being given the form!

  6. jerry
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    If Social Distancing remains a necessity for any length of time I see a brighter future for the ‘High Street’ shops that can combine old style local service (delivery, on-account, and on-approval) and lower foot fall than the out of town and supermarket stores that have a higher ratio of queueing. Not everything can be successfully bought online nor do many wish to buy online (for very valid reasons).

  7. Richard1
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    We need a radical shake up of the planning laws so there can be easy and simple change of use and space re-used eg for residential, or smart warehousing. The virus crisis has accelerated digitisation and the move to online. The high street will never return to how it was 15 years ago.

    • a-tracy
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I agree Richard, we don’t have a thriving High Street the Council destroyed it 50 years ago, I met a chap that had a thriving shop on the old High Street he never forgave them and left his store to rot as a symbol of his treatment until he died. They put up the most ugly shopping complex that began falling down and is now being torn down. The rents and maintenance charges are too high, the rates are too high and the Council bought it back at an unusually high cost for a falling down, shop empty (other than charity, betting type shop) disaster that it is. It’s not sensible to open a shop there now the supermarkets have taken the trade and one is being allowed to double in size so it’s nearly time over for the few remaining traders.

      They’d be best just rebuilding a large private retirement complex it seems to be where the money is going now and put free transport on to the shopping areas the Council chose to expand and want to herd people several years ago at rate payers cost.

      • mickc
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Indeed! The redevelopment of town centres by Councils using compulsory purchase drove out small private landlords in favour of giant companies backed by pension fund money.
        This drove out Independent retailers, and destroyed the localism they represented.
        The results are now obvious.

    • Sharon Jagger
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      I would argue that one significant reason for people shopping online is because of the modern lifestyle being so utterly manic – we don’t have time to shop!

      The other reasons mentioned are utterly valid, but modern life is of a poor quality with both parents working whilst juggling running a home and caring for children. For a lot of couples life must be quite unpleasant.

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        Don’t have time to shop Sharon? I work 8-6pm five days per week, raised three children and have always had more than enough time to shop?

        • Fred H
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

          well done Wonderwoman!

          • a-tracy
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

            😉 sitting in the sunshine feet up with a cold drink of orange squash right now lol.

          • Fred H
            Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            sunshine at 1pm today? – – where do you live?

      • Fedupsoutherner
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Sharon, come on, We’ve been doing this for years and managed. My mother had to work, keep the house clean and bring up four children but still found time to shop. Many shops are open on Sundays now too and not just supermarkets.

    • BeebTax
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Our High Street is dying because locals don’t use it. Times have changed. The supermarket is much more convenient, as is the internet.

      I’m a non-internet savvy old bloke, but I still find it easier to purchase online than get to our high street shop during working hours. There’s infinitely more choice online, it’s open 24/7, it’s usually cheaper and you can often return the goods quite easily. As for the supermarket, it’s got everything I need and the parking is right outside and free. They even provide trolleys and baskets.

      I loved the old high street in my town back in the 1960s, but come on, times are different. Let the market decide. Preserve a few old shopfronts for posterity. Relax planning laws.

      • IanT
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        I’m afraid I agree – like so many things that are disappearing, it’s easy to say we should support them but the practical reality is very different.

        We did a once a week shop in the local Supermarket. Free parking and most things we need in one place. I only used to go to the Pub when an old friend visited (once or twice a year). That is of course visiting for just a drink, we still go to Pub Restaurants (or used to).

        Apart from our weekly shop, most other things were already purchased on-line. Grandchildren toys, books, magazines and hobby materials. Clothes involved a visit to M&S but only as required – we purchase clothes for comfort not fashion. These days even our weekly shop is delivered or Click & Collected (at least when we can get a slot). I’m not sure we will revert when this ends either…

        So much as we are saddened by these changes, the reality is that we are responsible for them by our own practices – even before this crisis came along…

  8. George Brooks.
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    I wish I could work out why my comment of yesterday on numbers was correctly located at 0753hrs but not moderated?

    • bigneil(newercomp)
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      This is not a public free for all site with automatic acceptance. There is not only you gets the same treatment.

  9. Steve
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Government has created the problem with extortionate business rates, high parking charges, poor planning policies and by inflating the property at every opportunity for the last 40 years. Now they have wrecked the economy with the stupidity virus lockdown. The next thing we’ll see is politicians vying to claim credit for solving a disaster they are the sole cause of.
    If you really want to solve problems then eliminate regulation, predatory taxation, socialist policies and get out of the way of the free market.

    • Fred H
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      yep – Steve you sum it up nicely. However, is anyone listening or reading?

  10. Bryan Harris
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    A town centre needs a focal point, something that attracts people to it, be that a piece of art or an archway…. then it needs a mix of eating houses – not so many takeaways and charity shops – and original small shops and arcades.
    Councils needs to attract non-chain entrepenours who can add flavour and distinction… low rents and busibess rates would help.
    What doesn’t help is greedy councils that penalise motorists with a lack of parking and limited high cost parking and over zealous parking restrictions and irrational one way systems. In other words council planning needs to improve to improve quality of life.

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Agree Btyan

      Some Town Centres have managers who are responsible for promotion of the Town and its traders so that increased footfall is encouraged, unfortunately we then have parking attendants who are even more enthusiastic, who patrol the streets with camera’s and stop watches, who do the opposite.

      The problem appears to be with the actual cost overheads of running a shop in a Town, given the amount of rent, business rates, costs of heat, light, power and parking fees for staff, as well as the usual insurances, shops need now to turnover a fantastic amount of money with good margins, just to cover all of their expenses, let alone make a decent profit.

    • Ed M
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Great comment

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      The High Street need shopkeepers who can earn a living. They have been taxed and bullied out of the high street. Landlords pay Charity shops to go into empty properties because if the property is empty the Landlord pays the business rates! Charities pay no rates of course and are ruthless when choking the lifeblood out if Landlords desperate because the Govt. had stacked the odd against them so massively! Tenants simply refuse to agree new leases until there is a desperate landlord who agrees a dreadful rent which is then used as the ‘market rent’. They can remain in the property without a lease for as long as they choose.

  11. a-tracy
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Who owns the shops in your scenario? Are they owned by private sector workers pensions? Do you expect private sector pensioners to take yet another hit on their hard earned savings whilst your government protect everyone with private sector or council type pensions that just keep topping up with rates money?

  12. a-tracy
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Protect everyone with public sector…

  13. oldtimer
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    There are no simple answers to the questions you pose. Just about every business decision is influenced/compromised/driven by government imposed taxation and regulation. The idea that everything is only market driven is for the birds. I have no idea how the High Street will evolve. Where I live, a village that has grown into a small town over the past few years, about a year ago ideas were sought for how it should evolve as part of a community generated plan. We have yet to see the outcome of the consultation. My suggestion was to encourage a focus on certain specialities so that it became a local destination of choice for them. But all of that was pre C-19. I suspect it will be back to the drawing board now as we all come to terms with a new normal – not the least of which will be dealing with the shops of all the retailers who will have ceased trading.

    • BeebTax
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      The towns I’ve seen thrive in my area specialised (one on high end antiques, another on quality food and dining). Those without a theme seem to end up with charity shops, a few cafes and hairdressers.

  14. agricola
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    The future for town centre retail property is going to be difficult for the rest of this year irrespective of changes in shopping habits. They need a rent and business rates holiday until at least three months after they restart trading.

    Large department stores are being rapidly replaced by online trading. Their future could be conversion to accommodation, bringing more life to town centres. Smaller units have a better future as restaurants, coffee shops and wine bars. The one exception being specialist shops for clothing, food and services such as jewellers.

    One essential for it to work is good accessible and inexpensive car parking. Just remember you do not have to pay to park at an out of town shopping centre or for that matter to access the internet. This is part of what the town centre is competing against. Having seen this trend taking shape prior to Covid19 I am reasonably optimistic that it can continue once we have this virus under control. You just need people in local government, both elected and professional, to show initiative and imagination. In the big cities, due to much greater home working, a proportion of office space could change use to accommodation. This could have a further effect on reducing commuting. It is a time for flexibility and imaginative thinking which should be freed of the usual bureaucratic damp cloth.

    • Fred H
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      ‘You just need people in local government, both elected and professional, to show initiative and imagination.’

      aye – there’s the rub. Most of us haven’t got that long.

  15. James1
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    “……… what outcome would you like to see for these two independent traders and two shop units?”

    It should be for the owners of the shops to decide what to do with them. That’s a system called capitalism. We really ought to try it again. The owners or occupiers of the shops know better than anyone else what needs to be done and they should be free to implement whatever use they want to put the properties to without having to go through the expense and absurdly lengthy process of having to obtain planning permission.

    • Ed M
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Problem with that is that if you have a shop with cheap, tacky signage etc, then that will put people off going near the shops around it. So one shop wins (but not really) and ten others lose out.

      Towns need to be planned but by planners who are educated and underst aesthetics / branding etc.

      • James1
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        “Towns need to be planned…..”

        No they don’t. The Town & Country Planning Act only came into existence in 1947. Miraculously towns and cities somehow managed to grow up all by themselves without the moronic interventions of so called Town Planners. The vast majority of buildings of outstanding architectural merit, not to mention the most charming villages in Britain long predate the town planning system.

        The question is not whether to plan or not to plan, the question is whose plan. To get back to the original point, the owners and occupiers of the shops are by far the best judges as to what uses their properties should be put. They need to get it right, as they are risking their own money, and often the survival of their businesses. To be successful shops need footfall, i.e. pedestrian flow. If they manage to generate that the additional shoppers they attract can only assist the shopping locations concerned. If they get it wrong, then someone else will doubtless come along and use the property for another purpose and hopefully he/she will have greater success.

    • DOMINIC
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Absolutely. Freedom to act in your and indeed our own best interests. Unfortunately, there are these people called politicians and bureaucrats that have infected our world and whose primary concern is political outcomes not social or economic outcomes and who therefore work to conspire and conspiracy isn’t too strong a word to describe their behaviour since Thatcher was downed

      One need only look at the despicable behaviour of the BBC, Electoral Commission, the CPS, OFCOM..all Labour controlled Quangos that have been allowed to act with impunity by a Tory government who is also happy to see any threat to the Status quo crushed

  16. DOMINIC
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    We need another 1979. Liberation from the oppression of State control. The private sector is being deliberately nobbled by the stain of politics, bureaucracy and activism.

    And we desperately need another leader like Margaret Thatcher. If this doesn’t happen I believe that by 2040 the UK will be both bankrupt and an authoritarian State

    Politicians have wrought destruction on this nation, its freedoms and its private liberties. And now they have tried to destroy its private sector, the wealth creating engine of our nation.

    Faux Tory. Marxist Labour. Both parties singing from the same hymn sheet. Both working together to protect their duopoly in Parliament. There’s so much to lose for both parties if the Brexit Party should ever gain a foothold. Labour’s parasitic client State will be dismantled and the Tories will be exposed for what they have become.

  17. Caterpillar
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    In the Thatcher years the country had almost constant population and sufficient residential stock to shift to ownership for all. Since then population has grown again, exchange of ideas and innovation that occurs in cities has become more important etc, where there is sufficient colocation of commerce and residence then hight street style shops can survive. Some of the problem may stem from maintaining the suburban ownership model of the Thatcher years (which was right then) in a time when vertical renting in well designed cities is more appropriate.

  18. Richard1
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Today the U.K. has been obliged by the EU to impose a ban on the export of PPE to countries outside the EU. We are allowed to sell PPE to France or to Greece, but not to Canada or Australia. This is an example of the kind of regulation which the govt must ensure we are free of from Jan 1.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Well found, reference please.
      The EU will more and more try to stop us trading with the outside world, clearly.

    • Andy
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      We don’t even have enough PPE for our own doctors, nurses and care homes workers. So we don’t have any to export. So congratulations on freedom from an emergency ban which doesn’t negatively affect us anyway.

      Alongside the cheaper tampons you’ll be buying in bulk from January Brexit really is the gift which keeps giving. (The thing it is giving most is us rejoiners a very good laugh at your expense).

      • miami.mode
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Do keep up, Andy. There have been numerous reports of companies approaching the government/NHS with offers of PPE only to get a negative response or no response at all, so they are bound to look for other outlets.

        • Richard1
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          Indeed good point.

      • Richard1
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        The absurdity is not the ban it is the UK being forced to apply it to non-EU countries but not EU countries, having left the EU. Whether or not anyone has PPE to export or wants to do so is not the point – the point is there is a regulation imposed on us by a foreign power saying it can’t be done. It is an example of a regulation which the UK, having now decided to leave the EU, needs to be free of.

    • formula57
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      There is no end to the evil the Evil Empire is prepared to do!

      Surely some dopey civil servant can work out the UK could ship goods to the Channel Islands and onward from there to wherever we want?

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      If our leaders had any guts and a real belief in our sovereignty and real friends we’d pay no attention. Just look how fast Germany and France broke rules to defend their airlines. Yet we get double talk from our government in respect to ours. It deserves no respect as it does not care for us.

      • Andy
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        If France and Germany broke the rules they can be taken to the ECJ and punished. That’s sort of why they have a court. But, unfortunately for you, the rules are not as black and white as you think. Which is why the state aid argument for Brexit has always been one of the most spurious.

        As for our government it is making its own choice not to help the aviation industry. If airlines and airports go bust we know who is to blame,

        • Edward2
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          Do you have any previous examples where the the ECJ has punished Germany and France?
          Comec on andy there must be hundreds of examples.

          • hefner
            Posted May 4, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            Just a few examples available to anybody curious enough …
            wrt France:
            – 1984/c-202/82 about the use of common wheat not durum wheat in French pasta.
            – 1987/c-196/85 about the differential tax that France was using for sweet wines and liquour wines.
            -1988/c-312/86 about France failing to adopt Directive 76/207 on gender discremination in negotiation and collective bargaining.
            -1997/c-265/95 about French farmers attacking imported Spanish strawberries and Belgian tomatoes.
            -1998 against France flouting the Wild Birds Directive.
            …….
            wrt Germany:
            -1987/c-178/84 about the definition of beer in the German Beer Tax Act.
            -1988/c-18/87 about the definition of service charge vs. customs duty in the German Tax Code.
            -2007/c-112/05 about freedom of capital and the so-called limit to ‘big shareholders’ in company votes.
            -2008/c-271/08 about the definition of what a ‘fair balance’ should be between social and economic rights.

            All the above from a ten minute search.

        • dixie
          Posted May 5, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

          “The European court of justice said ministers had the right to change commission recommendations on budget policy but added that they failed to respect the rules when they suspended disciplinary action against Berlin and Paris, which are expected to break the EU’s deficit limits for the third year running in 2004. ”

          Reported Tue 13 July 2004 1240 BST in the Guardian.

          France and Germany repeatedly broke the rules but were not punished. Waste of time in the corrupt EU and just one of the reasons I voted to leave.

    • hefner
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Today, the BMA reports that almost half (48%) of UK doctors have been forced to buy PPE for themselves and staff. That from a survey of 16,343 doctors between the 28 and 30 April.
      Do you think this is because of the EU ban?

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        I thought U.K. doctors were in self-employed businesses? How many were doctors working in the hospitals and will they submit the remittances on expenses? Is this something they’ve always done?

      • Fred H
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        my heart bleeds.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Indeed we should just have left and be free of it now. The government Covid loans are all limited by EU rules on state aid and other damaging EU red tape.

      • hefner
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        In the last ten days, the EU has roughly released €1tn for the EZ members and mobilised another €1,770 bn, part of it a macro-financial assistance package.
        So I doubt very much that the EU Commission is in any state of limiting what financial packages the UK government is presently handling to its people.
        Could you please provide a reference of ‘the UK Covid loans all limited by EU rules on state aid’. I think you are mixing up a number of things.

        • dixie
          Posted May 5, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          One reference;

          From the commission’s ec.europa.eu website entitled “State aid: Commission approves £50 billion UK “umbrella” scheme to support the economy in the coronavirus outbreak”

          includes “The UK will ensure that the rules for cumulation of aid are respected across all measures under the Temporary Framework and across all granting authorities. Furthermore, aid may be granted under the measure only to undertakings that were not in difficulty on 31 December 2019. Finally, aid can be granted only until the end of this year.

          The Commission concluded that the measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of the UK, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.”

          Limitation 1 – the UK requires it’s measures to be approved by the EC

          Limitation 2 – the UK must comply with the “Temporary Framework”

          No doubt there are further limitations.

          • hefner
            Posted May 9, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

            D, thank you for the reference. As far as I can see, the Commission gave their ‘blessing’ to whatever the UK Government had decided. I can see that it could infuriate people to see that the UK has to ask the permission from the Commission to distribute its own money, but in practise it has not limited the amounts that the UK Government had decided to make available to support its companies.
            So yes it is a limitation of sort (but nothing new as it is part of the transition accepted by the UK last year) but with no impact on what the UK Government is doing.

    • Fred H
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      but they and people on here INSIST no harm intended to the UK.

  19. William Long
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Historically towns grew because for particular reasons their locality provided a convenient venue for people from the surrounding neighbourhood to gather in order to trade. More people came to live in the town to service this function. This historical raison d’etre has eroded if not vanished because it is so much more convenient for people outside the town to do their shopping, or attend a cattle market, on the town’s outskirts, or indeed do their shopping online. The only people for whom town centre shops are now likely to be the first choice are people living in the town, so probably the best use for these redundant shop sites is conversion to residential accomodation. There are though likely to be nicer places to live so they would have to be priced accordingly. For what may happen in the UK, it is worth looking at some of the decaying ghost towns in the USA.

    • BeebTax
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Well said. And who knows, a hundred years from now we may reinvent the town centre as a place for commerce. And if not, it doesn’t matter.

  20. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I live in troubled town with Smart City superstores sprinkled like sugar on a doughnut round the outside.
    The town centre is literally falling down and all sort of charity chops, money lenders, pound stores and so on cluster there.The Banks – most of them anyway – went ages ago as did the Police, the Law Courts and Woolworths along with two excellent butchers and a jewellers.. I suspect they meet a need and will reopen without any trouble. As will the market, run by local smallholders and farmers.
    The huge superstores round the outside will survive because they just have to: we all have to eat! and most (not all) of them meet a real need too.

  21. ukretired123
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Both will suffer footfall that is certain but depends on different or equal % declines.
    It assumes both have similar Repairs & Maintenance clauses paid by Landlords or not.
    Both landlords will be tempted to recover past losses and overcharge.
    Parking and congestion charges won’t help not bans on diesels – nor the new reality of social distancing inside and outside the shop – cost of modifications if any.
    The mix of walkers and drivers and heavy to carry items …..
    The momentum of local economy past, present and future will determine what the market will expect in both cases .
    That’s why everyone should be taught economics basics of supply and demand set prices.

  22. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    So much here depends on the individual circumstances of each unit.

    If the troubled town unit would otherwise sit as cash, it might be best off being offered to a charity which wouldn’t pay business rates, and just offer a 2-3% yield in rent on the book value, whatever that might be. Of course, if a commercial loan from one of our High Street Banks was in place against the book value then this is unlikely to be worthwhile, and a decision needs taking on whether to offload or set up a charity use oneself as landlord, with attendant tax advantages.

    In the smart town unit, it might be worth offering rent free periods if you feel the tenant’s business has future potential. It strikes me that the potential to combine counter sales with click and collect is there for local diy, garden centres, etc, where a non-supermarket non-mass gathering situation is there. Anywhere which avoids folk from outlying areas converging on a large central location will be safer. Again, negotiation back on any loans against the unit will be needed.

  23. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    If government and media can convince the population that covering one’s face is a panacea and stops the virus being passed on then a large portion of the population will be desperate to rush to the high street to purchase tat.

    This is the high street’s chance to recapture an audience.

    • sok
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      From what I can gather, the jury is out on the efficacy of masks. If anything, they provide a sense of false security. As with so many aspects of the virus, we just do not know.

  24. Lifelogic
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Interesting interview with Sir Ian Diamond (from the head of the office of National Statistics on Marr just now). I think he has got it rather badly wrong.

    He talks about 30,000 death when the number is surely more like 50,000 (killed or accelerated by Covid). What else is causing these excess over normal deaths after all? Plus we were running at slightly below average deaths before covid.

    He thinks indirect deaths (due to cancelled operation or people choosing not to go to A&E who should have done) are not insignificant. Clearly there will indeed be a few of these but they will be out far weighed by the fact that cancelling of operations tend to decrease deaths not increase them. fewer road accident death too, perhaps few other infections due to the lack down also. Doctors going on strike can often lower death rates by 30%.

    He should look at the statistics of strikes by doctors and surgeons and think a bit more perhaps.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      These LSE economist types often need a bit of help I find!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        My brother in law for example.

        • Stred
          Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          The best thing about lockdown is that it’s the perfect excuse to avoid family members that you don’t like.

  25. Lynn Atkinson
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I own both property SC (smart city) and TT (troubled town) in your scenario.

    My small entrepreneur tenants in TT have spent the lockdown refurbishing their shops, 3 have been completely revamped. A small cafe has added a delicatessen and the entire parade has been painted and polished. On each of 3 small shops we have between us (I pay and they do the work) basically gutted the shops and refitted.

    My property in SC is occupied by Burger King which announced that it was refusing to pay the rent, countrywide, early in the lockdown. Their rates bill is bigger than their rent bill – so the Government has already taken more than 50% of my investment. The shop was refitted 2 years ago and I paid £300,000 for the refit. Burger King have now informed me that they will be putting the businesses in my shop and others, into administration. The shop is huge and would easily divide into 5 of the TT sized shops and 3 1,000 sq ft apartments. I have a few problems caused by Government. The building is nominated for VAT and I would not want to charge VAT on the rent of the small business that I would like to nurture, because they are not VAT registered. But I would need to be able to reclaim VAT on the refurbishment of both shops and flats so that the end product is affordable. HMRC will not allow me to do this.
    The possible redevelopment is within permitted planning law, so I don’t need pp. However the whole situation has arisen because planners have set up 3 competing ‘town centres’ within 5 miles on greenfield sites, turning worthless land that they owned into gold. These new town centres are in huge trouble and one is effectively a ghost town.
    My tenants would be in heaven if they could pay the same marginal rates of tax as the huge corporations and potential monopoly online traders do.
    If shoppers want to depend on monopoly traders they will soon find that they have to tow the line – look at the NHS for an example and ask yourself if you would like to have food and clothes and furniture supplied in the same way, oh – and huge numbers of the best, most enterprising people sitting at home watching the races on TV.

    • Fred H
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      ah well….capitalism is not always a bed of roses. At least you have not just lost your job, and wondering how you will find work in the months to come. Rent to pay, mouths to feed – will schools re-open?

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 4, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Well if schools don’t open FredH do we all get a council tax rebate and income tax discount after all how can they charge for a service they’re not offering? Socialism sucks too.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        My shops are desperately required by the new hoards of unemployed as a means of employing themselves. Now more so than ever, as you say.

        • Fred H
          Posted May 4, 2020 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          ‘fraid not. Amazon, DPD(other delivery companies are available) and Supermarkets will take up the slack.
          More graffiti signed boarded shops ..

    • John E
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      It seems you want to have the benefit of VAT registration to reclaim VAT but not have to pay any? That’s obviously against the rules and always was at the time to you elected to tax the land.
      You can call that a problem caused by government but the HMRC position is perfectly logical.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Lots of companies claim but do not pay VAT. Did you not know? It’s a standard question from HMRC. The fact that repairs and refurbishment are VAT payable but building new is not is not ‘sustainable’ (what would Carrie and Greta say).
        So the corporate builders have a 20% advantage over property owners of ‘second-hand’ property. I have just had to replace 2 roofs and insulate 12 shops, all VAT paid, I can’t nominate the buildings as VAT Registered because I would have to charge small non-VAT registered traders VAT on the rent for 20 years.

  26. Ian Pennell
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Dear Sir John Redwood

    The High Street will suffer a disastrous hit if the Government and Bank of England don’t get the Fiscal and Monetary Policy decisions implemented to stave off the disastrous economic hit due to the Government-enforced Coronavirus Lockdown.

    Certainly there will be a need for substantial cuts to Business Rates (which were already far too high before the Corona-Crisis) but demand in the economy will need to be stimulated too. The question is how you go about raising the funds to pay for it all- and that is after Government revenues have collapsed (and you need to keep paying for Public Services) and the cost of Rishi Sunak’s huge fiscal response to keeping the Economy on life-support.

    My contention is that you cannot simply borrow the £1 Trillion needed on the Gilts Markets with a collapsed Economy- the Gilts Markets would take fright! So a combination of the Bank of England buying Gold Securities with £1 Trillion of Printed Money (Gold backs it up) and the Government imposing a (temporary) Land Value Tax (the least economically-harmful of taxes) is how you raise the sums needed to help the High Street and invest in Infrastructure without the risk of National Bankruptcy on one hand or high Inflation on the other.

    You will get high Inflation if the Bank of England just prints £1 Trillion to lend to the Government and does nothing up the new money! Sterling is not the World Reserve Currency- so we would not get away with what the Federal Reserve in the USA proposes.

  27. Ed M
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Really interesting article because right now is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to develop our High Street because with people unable to travel people abroad like they did they are going to be confined more to the UK, finding things to do, including shopping on the High Street.

    But we need to make our High Streets more CHARMING. Millions of people today travel (or did) to charming places in Europe and around the world (and are a lot better educated than 50 years and expect more). It’s a bit depressing to get back home and find your High Street not charming because it has been ruined with tacky, vulgar signage and advertising and shop brand colours etc. Ruined with ugly, modern, shopping mall architecture (although the American-style shopping mall brought big profits in the 1980’s and 1990’s it’s now seen as tacky and vulgar too – unless the mall is super luxurious like in Dubai, Knighsbridge or something). And more.

    So firstly, make it more difficult to put up ugly, tacky advertising / branding / signage etc. These are lazy ways of attracting customers and ruin the High Street for others trying to attract customers.
    We need to focus on preserving the charm of old buildings and building charming new ones. Charm / Beauty isn’t about spending lots of extra money but of IMAGINATION (and Education).
    That would be a huge start.

    • Ed M
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Town planners need to listen more to Prince Charles about architecture (he’s spot on) but more importantly to people in Advertising / Branding (the Saatchi and Saatchis of this word) about more sophisticated ways to create the High Street into a more positive ‘brand experience’ overall and so attracting more loyal and high-spending customers. Because at the moment, The High Street Brand is tacky and needs rebranding – big time.

      • BeebTax
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Yes.

        Unfortunately town planners don’t plan towns (as Prince Charles did), they mostly act as unimaginative, inflexible, self-opinionated and highly conservative enforcers of a mishmash of planning regulations. And they often work alongside uninspiring councillors, who may feel beholden to a vociferous minority of residents who don’t like change of any sort.

        Sorry I can’t feel more positive!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        Well he is certainly better on architecture than he is with his climate alarmist hypocrisy and quack “alternantive” medicine. Why on earth should I pay taxes so someone can have treatment on the NHS that clearly does not even work? I would not even pay for my own children to have it.

      • Stred
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Charles hasn’t got a clue about architecture. He warned all buildings to have white Georgian windows, like the disaster that Kings College built on the South Bank. The worst modern building in London. He knows as much about architecture as he does about climate change.

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      People aren’t going to have any money to spend.

  28. David L
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Certainly in Wokingham town centre I will go out of my way to patronise the few independent shops. Whether it’s true or not, I’m told that the occupants of the newly built units have very advantageous arrangements regarding their rent, while existing shops are effectively subsidising them. When those new occupants are part of a national chain my heart sinks!

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      David

      When the low rents end, many of these new to the Town businesses will go as well.

      Just wait and see.

      Those original businesses who suffered the two years of absolute chaos and almost non existent footfall, when the new Town Centre pavement and road structures were being worked on got precious little help from the Council.
      They got the platitudes that when all the work was completed, they would benefit from the increased footfall.

      No rent discount from them, as JR will know well.

      • Fred H
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        M&S weren’t consulted, and finally ‘told’ what they could have, like it or lump it. So guess what some sensible director replied? Suits us we have a larger new store just down the road – there is even a rail service and hundreds of parking places. BYE!

  29. glen cullen
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    1st nail – business rates
    2nd nail – car parking chargers
    3rd nail – local govt subsidy to new shopping malls (in-effect no rates etc)
    4th nail – national govt subsidy to online shopping (in-effect reduction in tax)
    Final nail – national govt lockdown

    I wish I could but I can’t see any future for high street shops…these tax cash cows have been milked to death and don’t kid yourself its all been done by either direct or indirect government policy

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Glen

      Exactly

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      The Govt is culpable, and what they have achieved is this:
      1. Cars required for out of town big infrequent shopping.
      2. More green belt disfigurement by these new, massive, carbuncles
      3. Total dependence on corporate power both for suppliers (speak to farmers about milk etc) and consumers.
      4. Derelict town centres
      5. Unemployment of the most enterprising of our popyulation.
      Own GOAL!

      • Everhopeful
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        And maybe the High Streets turned into housing..as I believe was mooted some time ago!
        Just great isn’t it?

        • Lynn Atkinson
          Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          Yep! Then you find there is no housing shortage. The ‘demand‘ is from people with no money or jobs who we have brought up to believe that the world owes them a living.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      +1

  30. formula57
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    As might be expected, future profitability of the shops will likely determine the discount applicable to the past rent. I would expect alternative uses would become comparatively more attractive so the shops will close.

    I have done nearly all my retail shopping online for a few years now and find rare visits to shops increasingly tiresome. I will not miss the high street when it is gone.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Men hate shopping – you never did keep the High Street going. Speak to the shoppers – the women!

      • Fred H
        Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        Men go shopping with specifics in mind, they find what they want and buy it.
        Women go browsing….maybe find what fits the bill, continue browsing in all shops – then usually return to the first to buy what they saw at the beginning. And then complain about shopping.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Let’s talk football stadia and TV coverage. No woman has missed it! We vote to redevelop the football stadia into something more useful. Allotments? Sites for Raves so the young ‘have something to do’? Personally I have never been to a football match and I think that footballers unemployment will be an economic improvement, they can find something useful to do – hod carriers?

  31. Ed M
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Few months ago, I shopped in a charming market town called Alresford in Hampshire (near Jane’s Austen’ Chawton). And the woman in the shop told me that people come from London for the day just to shop in Alresford or drive out of their way to stop at Alresford to shop when driving on a long journey somewhere.

    People love shopping in Alresford because it’s CHARMING! That’s it. The more charming a high street is, the more likely it is to get shoppers. And high-spending ones at that.

    Therefore it’s all about, essentially, make our high streets more charming, through getting rid of tacky, vulgar signage, preserving charm in existing buildings, and building new charming buildings (and charm doesn’t require a lot of extra money – but imagination / education).

    • BeebTax
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that works. It’s fun to visit a charming place. However, not everyone can do this – I think you need to start with some architectural interest (old world charm or modernist), so some High Streets will just have to go.

    • Peter
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Alresford is very nice. We used to go there every Summer – for the pubs and a mooch round. There are second hand book shops and places selling antiques, but you would not go there for your main food shop or to buy consumer durables.

      There is a bit more scope in Alton. As for Chawton, there are no shops – just the pub across from Jane Austen’s house. Cheriton has a very nice pub too – The Flowerpots – but no shops.

  32. Iago
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Is this discussion not academic? The government is in the pocket of President Xi and the EU, not to mention others. There’s no point.

  33. Everhopeful
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Ding, dong, bell,
    We’re in LOCKDOWN HELL!
    What brought us here?
    Another Project Fear.
    Who’ll make us stay?
    Little Boris J.
    He thought that he would see,
    If we got immunity.
    But the Left has forced his hand,
    And now there’s dread and poverty throughout this land!!

  34. mickc
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The point your article misses is that Landlords have Borrowings. Those Borrowings are predicated on a certain yield from the Property Portfolio, which has been valued at a certain capital value.
    Therefore Landlords cannot just agree reductions in rent because the Banking Covenants will be breached ie the capital value will go down (because less rent) and the Banks will require a reduction in the Borrowing.
    The Landlords cannot afford to put in the capital to reduce the Borrowing. A perfect example is Intu.
    Therefore the problem is not the Landlords…but the Banks…well, what a surprise!

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Exactly.

  35. Polly
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    What is the point of the UK ”taking back control” from the EU if the UK doesn’t want control over her economic destiny via control over the good health of her people ?

    Apparently the UK has given away and pooled her vast C-19 treatment research and resources with the rest of the world, and agreed to stand in line with all other countries for the drugs to cure coronavirus.

    It certainly looks from the following Gov UK press release that Dominic Raab’s ”Global Britain” in reality means ”Globalized Britain” controlled by supra national organizations such as the WHO and UN….

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-leads-way-as-nations-endorse-landmark-pledge-to-make-coronavirus-vaccines-and-treatments-available-to-all

    Please note….

    ”At the World Health Organization virtual launch event today, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab joined the UN Secretary General, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General and the leaders from the 20 countries, including France, South Africa and Malaysia to pledge the UK’s support for the new “COV-access agreement”.

    So from this press release, it’s pretty clear that ”the UK… one of the biggest supporters of the global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine” and treatment does all the hard work, but Britons have to take their turn before others deemed in greater need by the WHO !

    What is the point of ”taking back control” if the UK doesn’t want control over her economic destiny via the good health of her people but instead hands the decision making to individuals unlikely to care much about Britain in particular ?

    As to ”The future of the High Street”, please address all questions to the WHO Geneva or the UN New York. Maybe they will get back to you.

    Polly

  36. Andy
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    It is deeply sad what has happened to our high streets. But we are all to blame. We all order things online. And what we will see is that Coronavirus makes it worse – with many more retailers and cafes/restaurants going bust.

    Longer terms we need a proper look at every town centre. Are they attractive places to be? This means putting people first and not cars. Get cars away if you can.

    Is parking provision correct? We do not want a parking free for all. But if you offer an hour’s free parking people will stay for an hour. If you offer three hours free they will stay for longer. And enough with the ridiculous penalties for overstaying. I recently received a £100 fine for overstaying in a car park for 13 minutes. The train I was taking back was late – and I got a huge fine which remains unpaid. MPs really need to clamp down on these excess – that is a major vote winner. We also need proper provision for electric cars and for e-scooters – which I hope are legalised soon – and for bicycles. So many town centres don’t even have a single bike rack. Staggering.

    We need to make town centres destinations. As well as cafes and restaurants we need hairdressers, dry cleaners, vets, doctors surgeries, dentists, other health provisions like physios, chiropractors etc. What about children? We need soft play areas and child friendly cafes. And community hubs were banking services, local and national government services and police are all available under one roof.

    • Chris S
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      Andy, for once I agree with your every word !

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      You can’t get your hair done in an hour, so you have yo go out with a towel round your head looking a real fright, to move the car and find another parking place – if you can.

  37. Bob
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Business rates should be cut by 90%.
    Taxation has gotten out of control in the UK, as has the cost of govt spending.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Yes. We need the Government poor and the people rich. It has been the reverse for far too long.

    • glen cullen
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      The business rate should be abolished altogether its not fit for purpose, it’s a hindrance to growth …no taxation without representation

  38. oldwulf
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    There might be six main reasons for the demise of our city centres:

    • High rents
    • High business rates
    • Growth of online shopping
    • Growth of out of town shopping
    • Insufficient and expensive city centre parking
    • Ubiquitous charity and betting shops

    Our city centres will never get back to what they once were, so what type of centre do we want ?

    High rents – the open market should take care of these, although it may lead to alternative uses for existing shops.

    High business rates – cash strapped councils need this income so local government financing needs to be looked at by central government

    Growth of online shopping – Amazon and Ebay etc should pay their “fair share” of taxation – whatever “fair share” may be. Some high street shops may be able to increase their online offering and “click and collect”.

    Growth of out of town shopping – this is possibly the new “high street” although it might be over reliant on the car.

    Insufficient and expensive city centre parking – cash strapped councils might need the income this brings in and may feel the need to control the amount of traffic in city centres. Cheap and plentiful public transport might be a part solution.

    Ubiquitous charity and betting shops – more difficult. My perception is that betting shops primarily extract money from the people who can least afford it. Presumably local authorities have their own rules on the number of permitted betting shops and their regulation. Charity shops serve a worthy purpose to the extent that they raise money for the charity’s primary purpose and create a market for second hand stuff… but how many do we need, particularly as local authorities seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by giving up at least 80% of the business rates for each charity shop. Maybe the landlord is happy if a charity can then afford to pay more rent. There is then the question of the effect of a charity shop on existing and potential “normal” traders who pay their taxes and are not staffed by unpaid volunteers.

    • Bob
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      “Presumably local authorities have their own rules on the number of permitted betting shops and their regulation.”

      The UK should copy the non profit model of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club.

      “It is a non-profit organisation providing horse racing, sporting and betting entertainment in Hong Kong. It holds a government-granted monopoly in providing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, the Mark Six lottery, and fixed odds betting on overseas football events. The organisation is the largest taxpayer in Hong Kong, as well as the largest community benefactor. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust donated a record HK$3.6 billion in 2014 to support the different needs of the society and contribute to the betterment of Hong Kong. “

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      The problem with High Street parking is that it has to pay business rates. Else we could make those parking facilities free of charge and solve that problem. Because it is uneconomic we have not provided as much multi-stories parking, for example, as we could. The business rates in out of town spots are, of course much reduced.

  39. ChrisS
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I own a retail unit through my SIPP Pension Scheme in a busy High Street near Bournemouth. For many years it has been operated by the tenant as a launderette.
    They have asked for a rent holiday, although the shop is still open and trading. We are in discussions about the way forward.

    The future for most retail units on High Streets, and especially those off the main street in any town is highly doubtful. If my Launderette operator decided to cease trading, I would not attempt to relet the shop, I would apply for PP to convert it into a residential unit.

    As we are already saturated with charity shops, estate agencies and cafes, this is the only way forward for a high proportion of shop units, particularly those in secondary locations.
    The old adage of “Location, Location, Location” has never been more true than today.

    Online shopping is only the latest challenge to the High Street. Councils have to bear a great deal of responsibility for the situation. For years they have been either ramping up car park charges, infesting towns with ever -more yellow lines and employing armies of traffic wardens. Many have actually closed car parks altogether in a futile attempt to stop people who want to drive to the shops! This stupid policy has made matters infinitely worse.

    As I have said here before, the larger units that are being abandoned by the large store chains at an alarming rate in town and city centres will never be re-let and will eventually have to be demolished and replaced with housing developments. It would be better if most of these were to become courtyard-style houses rather than yet more flats.

    • oldwulf
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Hi ChrisS

      “As we are already saturated with charity shops, estate agencies and cafes..”

      I understand how you feel but I would have thought that market forces will “take care” of estate agencies and cafes. Either there is enough business to support them or there is not. However, my perception is that charities are somewhat insidious in that they are heavily state/taxpayer subsidised and are permitted to engage in unfair competition against normal taxpaying business which are not staffed by unpaid volunteers.

      • Fred H
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        and you have to worry that so many charities exist and are supported – begs the question ‘why do they need to exist at all?’ I think our society is failing in many directions – or is it successive governments?

      • Chris S
        Posted May 3, 2020 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        I quite agree, Oldwulf. Market Forces will decide.

        We never go to Bournemouth or nearby Winton as it’s impossible to park in Winton and too expensive in Bournemouth.

        Instead we mostly shop online or occasionally go to Castle Point, an out-of-town shopping centre with shops conveniently arranged around a huge, free car park.

        Bournemouth already lost its M & S last year and its largest department store is scheduled to close. The other is unlikely to survive the lockdown.

        None of these huge retail units will find a new tenants.

  40. Bryan Harris
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    TPA announce today that our national debt is £2Trillion

    What plans are there to reduce this incredible burden?

    How are the government going to repay this debt without taxing us all into an early grave?.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Oh I expect they will announce a global debt forgiveness scheme.
      We are so far down the rabbit hole now we must expect the unthinkable.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      They will package it up for future generation to pay.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      @Bryan Harris

      You forget that this Government as with their predecessors have a Magic Money Tree. All these Corvid payouts will disappear with quantitive easing.

      Then you get the Foreign domiciled Companies and Individuals for tax, that are in receipt of handouts – get to laugh even more.

      You also forget, because Government says ‘they will give’ and the MsM says the Government will give – that Governments do not have any money of there own just a deep reach into your wallet.

      To think we are still paying down Gordon Brown’s curious antics.

  41. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Rolls Royce PLC to shed 8000 jobs but not in the newspapers today, has the gov bailed them overnight or are the gov and Robber Barrons media only telling the people what they want them to know.

  42. Tom Rogers
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Failure should be welcomed, embraced even. Failure is feedback. If high streets are generally failing, it’s because people have found a better alternative. It’s for businesses to adapt. Though it’s admittedly a little simple-minded, maybe it’s true what they say: government should just get out of the way?

    I add one caveat to this advocacy of thrusting economic Darwinism. When a high street fails – boarded-up shops, charity outlets, etc. – it is sad and depressing and psychologically unsettling. We do need social stability and tradition, with thriving owner-managed local businesses that serve the public, it’s just that I see no necessary contradiction between that and economic liberty. Quite the opposite: the two things go together, but only under freer conditions in which government sticks to its core duties. It is not a matter of being anti-government or anti-state, again it’s the opposite: it’s recognising who does what well.

    Government should stick to the core function of national territorial defence and leave the rest to private initiative. State interference hasn’t helped economic life thrive.

    You’ve forced mass immigration on us, which has loaded public costs (and also demoralised us and destabilised the country socially). You think we should pay foreign aid to the rest of the world.

    Business rates are too high. Let’s remember that business rates are paid by local councils into central government. They’re sky high and represent a leverage by which local government can interfere with and bully independent business people.

    You’re supposed to be Tories. Why do we even still have taxes like this at all?

    The state and local government need to be shrunk in size and further privatised. The NHS itself represents both an actual and symbolic public financial burden. It should be neutralised either through fiscal repression that forces rationalisation or outright privatisation. I would favour a Singapore-style hybrid system of socialised savings accounts and co-payments. This whole pandemic panic fiasco has undermined the concept of universal healthcare. If that was the neo-thatcherite Right’s intention, then the ploy worked. I’ve seen enough and I’m now a convert. The project to structurally dismantle the Left, begun under Thatcher, now needs to be completed. Local government should be privatised and local services replaced by commissioning. We could have a fraction of the tax burden and receive better services – and local businesses, judiciously managed, could thrive again.

    • Fred H
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Tom – -excellent commentary. Its rather a sobering thought, but I tend towards a form of dystopia rather than ‘social stability and tradition’ – much as I would prefer it.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      @Tom Rogers

      A lot to agree with.

      With just one or two obvious exceptions, are there any Tory’s left in Parliament, certainly not in Government. More New Labour than dynamic One Nation Conservatives.

      Failure also causes rebirth. As you say it is part of the learning curve. If you don’t experience it means you are not trying hard enough – particularly in business.

      Successive Governments have indoctrinated a control from the center mentality, that offers the citizen the opportunity to leave it to us and we will provide. So people say great I will let you do that then.

      The inequality of all our tax system, requires hand-outs and support to remove distortion. That then requires more handouts and support because it is used to manipulate minds and not manage the economy. A fair system of tax contributed equally by all doesn’t need any tinkering.

      With regards the High Street, pro rata the big high turnover out of town Supermarket pays less in taxes than say the independent High Street Bistro. That is a Tory Government treating everyone as equal.

      Being a cynic is that also a Political Class supporting its donors first!

  43. Rien Huizer
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    It looks like Covid -19 is acceletaring the decline in demand for physical shopping facilities. On top of that the possibility that pub culture may change completely. Some people would consider empty high streets and closed pubs a minor problem, but of course the investors and users would be very unhappy, to say the least. From your example I guess that shops in the UK have been quite expensive (also with rates on top) . Maybe you could add a few data, like floorspace, annual “gross profit” (or turnover minus cost of goods sold).

    And then the hospitality industry (pubs and restaurants mostly). These tend to be essential for a lively inner city shopping area. Given a continued threat of Covid-19 returning for the foreseeable future (say 18 months to 4 years) and the possibility people may not be very happy to wear masks during their drinking and eating, what do you make of that.

    I reckon that very few properties will be able to perform well, which might lead to an exodus of existing investors to be succeeded by people with dubious sources of financing. More than just an economics problem.

  44. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that I have an opinion. Let private enterprise actions and outcomes be determined by market forces.

    What is in Government’s in tray is the matter of business rates. If you want to help the High Street, stop charging such high business rates for shop premises. Recoup the revenue by charging business rates on warehousing and distribution centres.

    At the moment, many internet based businesses, particularly international ones, are laughing all the way to the bank. They minimise corporation tax payment and pay nothing on their business premises.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Remove Business rates in the current form. A fair tax would be one that every business paid their equal share according to turnover, regardless of location.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted May 5, 2020 at 12:07 am | Permalink

        I don’t think that a turnover tax is fair for domestic businesses but it may be the only way to get multi-nationals to pay their fair share.

  45. M Brandreth- Jones
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it is as cut and dry as this . What kind of problems was troubled town experiencing and could they be rectified. For example a lack of parking spaces near to the town could be the trouble , whereas smart town may be not so smart if a parking lot was introduced.

  46. Irene
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    You make the laws, or rather CG does, whether we like them or not. You also make laws that local councils have to obey, whether they like them or not. Local planning departments are governed by restriction imposed on them by CG too. Many of the decisions made by planning leave residents perplexed and wondering about the meaning of life. Thousands of houses that nobody can afford seem to be the preference of our local authority, with infrastructure dead and dying.

    High Streets exist in villages too, at least they used to. We had a thriving High Street in our village – a really Smart Village then, with a butcher, a baker, a fishmonger, a greengrocer, a bank, a post office, a newsagent / bookshop / card shop, a family run pharmacy / chemist, a corner shop, a garden centre, a really good chippy and so on. Now? We have one supermarket that struggles to meet the local demand. A supermarket that sacked most of its managers a few years go, and failed to plan ahead. That’s more or less it. All the rest have gone.

    Millions of £ spent recently by the local council on the nearby historic market town, a few miles away, full to bursting with coffee shops and not a lot else. Full of shops nobody really wants. They will go bust speedily now. Even the historic market is struggling – but it’s not a real market anyway. A really Stupid Town now.

    Where were you while the destruction of High Streets and communities was going on? Too late now to try to restore the Smart Village. The Stupid Town will soo go the way of the once-Smart Village.

    • Irene
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      It hurts. It really hurts. To see what has happened to our Smart Village hurts. There was nothing that we could have done about it, no matter how much we tried. That’s what hurts most of all. Would it have hurt you, JR, if it happened to your village?

    • Irene
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Have you forgotten to click and approve me out of moderation?

  47. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    The people themselves shutdown high street shopping by choosing the USA way of life of out of town shopping centres and in-town shopping centres which have parking and food and coffee shops only in tourist areas do high street do well. Now shopping malls in the USA are shutting down in favour of internet shopping and UK shoppers will follow suit and when the gov makes a deal with the USA this year that will open the UK up to their online shopping as USA businesses pour in with cheaper pricing, it a way of life here, getting sold out if not to the EU or China then the USA, what new.
    The majority of US businesses in the UK will be the first ones to open up in mid-May and clean up as shoppers like the big names, most UK smaller coffee shops, smaller takeaways, restaurants and so on will main shut apart from migrant areas in cities, most migrant shops have remained open though out the lockdown that sell food and when the USA businesses in the UK reopen they will cut their prices and take more market share which will keep smaller UK businesses shut and only the large UK businesses will be able to compete. Automation will now be sped up as you can see in the USA and will be coming here soon like Amazon steadily automating all of their warehouses and fast food outlets.

    Don’t forget it will be the people who choose where they shop either because of price or their love of big names with celebrities endorsements which big businesses can afford cos they have the capital markets behind them.

  48. outsider
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir John,
    The basic question is whether people, via national Government, think that local high streets are a priority social and economic asset that should be safeguarded and promoted as such. If not then (emergencies aside), just leave it to market forces.
    If we do value them, we shall need complex interlocking policies at national and local level and a long-running cross-departmental programme led by a dedicated Minister of State.
    It is easy enough to devise blanket measures to help but they tend to have unintended consequences or to create perverse incentives, so they need to be properly thought through, balanced and co-ordinated.
    One essential, in my view, is to create, or recreate, strong local Chambers of Commerce on a statutory basis, with public responsibilities, some local licensing powers and rights of consultation. The key (generally positive) role of local CoC’s is evident in several continental countries with more vibrant local economies and one of many useful lessons we failed to learn from our neighbours while we were in the EU.

  49. APL
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    JR: “Some High Streets were suffering badly before the anti virus policies closed down most of the shops. ”

    Classic. Fiddling while Rome burns.

    The leader of your government is proposing to extend the period of lockdown.

    What impact on our society do you think a 20% fall in GDP will have?

    • APL
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      The Airline industry used to contribute £22billion to UK GDP and employ 1,000,000

      That’s going to be transformed into subsidies and unemployment payouts.

      Well done.

      When I suggested the Tory party should be destroyed, I didn’t mean for you to take the British economy with you.

  50. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Big change coming with a war between China and the US in South China seas and of cos the UK won’t want to miss that which will lead to US companies in China being reshoring to mainland US but not here because of the climate change act and instead of importing cheap goods from China your goods will come from the USA, Europe and India with the big increase in prices, inflation will soar as job loses mount along with wages cuts, a trade deal with us first then war, you won’t know what has hit you.

    Loving it.

  51. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    You can also forget farming in this country.

  52. Anonymous
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I think the high street is over now. Shop owners were already fighting against hostile councils and now any business that is remotely successful is going to get milked for tax – and with the prospect of being shut down by the next virus that comes out of China (because we’re not going to check or scrutinise them) I wouldn’t blame any shop owner for choosing dole over re-start one iota.

  53. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Another big change will be G5 surveillance sold to the public as a way to alter the temp on your fridge and heating system and see who ringing your doorbell on your iPhone and other such nonsense, with this one change they know everything you do as the jobs disappear and your wages get cut, it will like living in an open prison, with holiday overseas for the few along with driving a car if you haven’t got F you, money you will outers. Loving it

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      It is controlled by China though and not the UK Government so we will all be safe and secure.

  54. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    The biggest con I have ever witnessed on this planet.

  55. Iain Gill
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Until the internet retailers have to pay tax here rather than in tax havens the market will remain heavily distorted.

  56. James Freeman
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    The problems of the high street are caused by:
    a) rip off parking arrangements putting off shoppers
    b) too many empty shops
    c) excessive business rates forcing shops out of business

    For parking there is often a conflict of interest: councils have a monopoly for the facilities and are responsible for planning. So introduce competition by banning single parking operators (including councils) from more than a 30% market share in any locality. Make it a duty for planning departments to ensure there is always enough capacity on busy days. Remove the GDPR exemption from parking operators, encouraging less draconian payment methods.

    Where a significant proportion of shops become empty, retail use planning regulations should become void. This will allow empty shop to be more quickly re-redeveloped.

    Reduce the multiplier on the ratable value for retail property from the current 50% rate to the other side of the Laffer curve. 20% sounds reasonable to me. Annual increases or decreases should represent the state of the local market, not RPI. Hand the money straight to councils. If a significant proportion of landlords and tenants agree, allow extra charges to be levied on local businesses. Use this for re-investment in the area and joint services.

    There will no doubt be further decline in the High Street. But if we go back to basic market principles with simpler regulations, the decline will be less painful.

  57. ian
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The model the gov has made around the city of London of banking entertainment, shopping and eating are over as the bankers shut their skyscrapers with others like insurance accountants businesses and automate their systems and banks will want a cashless society and all high street branches and ATMs will close, the money the gov would of earn from employment taxes from theses businesses dry up.

    • Equality is coming
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      we are in the last days of humanity, soon the waters will all be dried up and we will be spirit beings again, all equal.

      • Fred H
        Posted May 5, 2020 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        not according to Revelations.

  58. glen cullen
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Just watching the covid-19 daily update 16:45 3rd May…….its a party political broadcast….all spin and bluster

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      You would swear it was a spoof party political broadcast for the Govt made by the opposition!

      • glen cullen
        Posted May 4, 2020 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        correct

  59. acorn
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    The proper use of taxation is to either stop or curtail some activity the government doesn’t like; or, to redirect private sector output into the public sector for the common good; a concept never understood by neoliberal governments.

    On the basis property is worth what it can earn, UK Commercial real estate has historically been valued at twelve times its rent, lately it is nearer fourteen times. For reasons which are not clear, commercial property has to pay circa 3.5% of its capitalised value in business rates, while residential property pays, on average, only 0.5% in Council Tax. The more expensive the property the less you pay as a percentage.

    A Council Tax of 0.83% of market value across all property would even things out. It would be applicable to all property regardless of values, including Chelsea mansions owned by foreign money launderers.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      No, the proper use of taxation is to provide those rather few services government can do better than individuals. Defence, law and order and a few other things. 20% of GDP is more than enough for this. It would then be 20% of a far higher GDP.

  60. Ginty
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    This is completely arse about face.

    We are a ship holed below the water line. We have prioritised casualties first and whilst we are ignoring the hole below the water line and have barely dealt with the casualties we are talking about mending the bar in the wardroom.

    The hole (and the water) is, of course, China.

    The 5 Eyes information this week (totally ignored by the BBC) indicates that we are at risk of another virus even if this one is sorted out.

    So what’s the point of doing any of this until the trade and transport routes from China are stopped until we can have proper inspections of their laboratories and their wet markets ?

    For all we know airborne Ebola could be on its way already – how would we know ? We sure as hell can’t trust China or the WHO to tell us !

  61. Fred H
    Posted May 3, 2020 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    OFF TOPIC — but more important than High Street shopping.
    BBC website – –
    Test, track and trace is the strategy that could help to ease the UK’s lockdown and return the country to some kind of “new normal”. Hopes rest on the UK’s huge expansion of testing, with the government exceeding its target of 100,000 tests A DAY by the end of April.
    Three days on and there has been “a dip”, with figures put at 76,496 for the 24 hours up to 09:00 BST on Sunday.
    When quizzed on this at the daily press briefing earlier, Michael Gove said one might expect over a weekend, with fewer people going to work, “a dip in the amount of testing that might occur”.
    The figures include both tests processed through official labs and tests sent to homes or other sites.

    NONSENSE. We have never been near 100,000 tests per day. Whoever decided to lie to the public should be SACKED. It was never 122,000 TESTED and we knew it. The circa 40,000 added to pass the target were one off shipped out kits, and could not be sustained the next day! Gove has the nerve to suggest a weekend day makes a difference. NONSENSE. This pandemic has brought the UK economy to its knees – if we can’t ship kits every day of the week we will never contain the spread and reduce contacts to a bare minimum.
    The Government ought to be about as vulnerable as I can remember.
    Boris get a grip or you will have a brief time in No. 10.

  62. Roger Phillips
    Posted May 4, 2020 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    The support package for self employed small business owners is nothing short of a disaster! Shocking betrayal of the core voters that supported your party.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Plus we have the government endless unfair attacks and thefts from landlords. With tenants also encourage not to pay rents.

    • glen cullen
      Posted May 4, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      fully agree….its as though the tory party don’t understand the business sector

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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