168.Without a crystal ball, we cannot predict what changes lie ahead. But, with online sales having nearly doubled in the last five years, it is almost certain that online shopping will continue to grow, all the while undermining physical retailers and our high streets and town centres.
169.However, we firmly believe that our high streets and town centres can have a better and more balanced future ahead of them. This will require a shift from the retail focused activities of high streets and town centres today to new uses and purposes which foster greater social interaction, community spirit and local identity and characteristics.
170.Achieving this will require significant structural change and concerted effort. But, with a properly planned strategic intervention led by the local authority, with the backing of local stakeholders and the wider community, we can redefine our high streets and town centres and make them sustainable and future proof.
171.We see the possibility of a bright future for our high streets and town centres if our recommendations are followed. The Future High Streets Fund and Future High Streets Task Force have the potential to kick-start transformation but are just a first step and must be accompanied by the more wide-reaching reforms that we have outlined in this report.
172.If action is not taken now we strongly believe that the future will see high streets and town centres with an increasing prevalence of empty shops, dereliction, deteriorating infrastructure and a loss of customers who will take their trade elsewhere. We are concerned that this will lead to some towns centres and high streets effectively closing down altogether, most likely disproportionately affecting people on lower incomes who have less opportunity to shop elsewhere. We therefore urge the Government, local government, retailers, landlords and the local community to act on our conclusions and recommendations now in order to save the high street and ensure its long-term sustainability for future generations to come.
Published: 21 February 2019