Labour unveils plans to revive 'struggling high streets'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Plans to revitalise 'struggling high streets' by reopening thousands of boarded-up shops in England will be set out by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour would give councils the power to take over retail units which have been vacant for a year and hand them to start-up businesses or community projects.

MORE: Fun-filled festival to take place to aid youth club

As customers switch to online shopping or retail parks, town centre vacancy rates nationally are at their highest level for four years - and Labour says an estimated 29,000 shops across the country have been abandoned for at least 12 months.

The party has also registered alarm over the preponderance of charity stores, betting shops and fast-food takeaways in areas which previously had a better mixture of businesses.

Labour's proposals will be set out by Mr Corbyn in a visit to Bolton on Saturday.

Mr Corbyn said: "Boarded-up shops are a symptom of economic decay under the Conservatives and a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.

"Once thriving high streets are becoming ghost streets."

He pledged that Labour would revive 'struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street, with thousands of new businesses and projects getting the chance to fulfil their potential'.

The party's plans are modelled on the system of 'empty dwelling management orders' which entitle local authorities to put unoccupied houses and flats back into use as homes.

The initiative follows Labour proposals to provide free wi-fi in town centres, halt closures of banks and post offices and improve high street bus services.

Jake Berry, minister for high streets, said the Government had cut small retailers' business rates, was relaxing high street planning rules and launched a £3.6billionn Towns Fund to improve local transport links and boost broadband connectivity.

He said: "Jeremy Corbyn would wreck the economy, tax small businesses and scare off the investment needed to help our high streets, meaning more boarded up shops and fewer jobs.

"We will deliver Brexit by October 31 so we can get on with levelling up opportunities across our country and breathe new life into high streets and town centres."

MORE: Inquest opens into death of 'murder victim'