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'Bricks and mortar retailing cannot anchor high streets,' councils told

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Local government must recognise the inevitable effects of technological advances and their naturally disruptive effects on the UK economy, a report launched Tuesday has warned.

The UK is set to experience one of the “most disruptive” periods in recent history - likened to the industrial revolution of the 19th century - and policy makers must act now to ensure that Britain’s places remain “relevant and economically viable”.

Bill Grimsey, a UK businessman who has managed several large high street chains, and is co-author of the Grimsey Review 2, said: “Bricks and mortar retailing can no longer be the anchor for thriving high streets and town centres.”

“[Shops] need to be repopulated and re-fashioned as community hubs,” Mr Grimsey said in his report, while libraries and public spaces should be “placed at the heart of each community” as digital and health hubs.

Mr Grimsey also claimed the “complex” and “confusing” nature of local government could act as an impediment to economic growth due to a natural love of red tape.

Martin Tett, (Con) the Local Government Association’s economy spokesperson, said: “Many councils throughout the country are already leading the way in transforming the future potential of their town centres in the face of unprecedented changes in shopping habits and the retail landscape.

“We are pleased that the report backs our calls for councils to have more powers and flexibility, particularly in relation to planning, to help shape and deliver vibrant town centres.”

The first Grimsey Review, published in 2013, said: “One thing is certain. The high street and town centre landscape has irrevocably changed and there is no point clinging on to a sentimental vision of the past. We have to start planning for a bold new world.”

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