MPs launch inquiry into health of the high street

High street vacancy

The government has launched an inquiry into the health of the UK’s high streets, in response to what has so far been a dark year for the retail sector.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, which consists of a cross-party group of MPs – is set to examine ways to revive ailing high street locales, where retailers are increasingly under threat due to financial pressures and the ongoing rise of online shopping.

The committee has invited submissions to an inquiry that will consider what high streets and town centres could look like by 2030.

The committee said it wanted views on why high streets matter to people and what improvements could be made.

“Our high streets and town centres have an important social, civic and cultural place in our society,” said Clive Betts, the Labour MP who chairs the committee.

“But, many of our high streets are now struggling, facing a range of challenges including the threat posed by online retailers.

“Changing trends and behaviours in recent decades – driven by a range of economic, demographic, social and technological factors – have affected the prosperity and vibrancy of our high streets.”

The news comes as UK retail grapples with one of its most difficult years so far, with downbeat company updates, household retailers Toys R Us UK, Maplin, Carpetright and New Look all plunging into administration.

Meanwhile, House of Fraser announced it would launch a company voluntary arrangment (CVA) in June and Mothercare has hinted it could announce a CVA as well in order to stay afloat.

Many household restaurant chains, which form a staple part of high streets and town centres, are are also facing problems.

It’s not the first time that UK high streets have been subject to a government investigation.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011, retail guru Mary Portas was tasked with coming up with a plan to save high streets, which at the time was under threat from out-of-town shopping centres and supermarkets moving into non-food sectors.

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