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Retailers' concern at 'ghost towns'

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Retailers are calling for more government action to prevent high streets becoming 'ghost towns'.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says offering rate-free use of shops that are empty and other proposals are "tackling the sympton not the problem".

Reacting to Government backing for finding creative ways to reduce the negative impact of empty shops, BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Art displays are not the answer for empty shops.

"We agree that vacant premises blight town centres. But contriving schemes to fill them with other users is tackling the symptom while ignoring the cause."

Mr Robertson said there was a need for uses such as information centres and play groups but local economies needed thriving retailers providing employment.

“One of the key causes of retailers’ difficulties is property costs. The Government responded to our lobbying by delaying part of the 5% business rates increase that was due this month.

"But the full amount still has to be paid over the next two years and rates revaluation threatens another big increase next April.

“Rather than offering empty shops for uses that are rates-free, wouldn’t it be better to reduce the rates burden for struggling retailers.”

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