The high street, an area once teeming with local shops and considered a community's heart in many U.K. cities and towns, is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
As traditional outlets struggle to survive due to high tax rates, the popularity of Internet shopping and fierce competition, thousands of shops are closing every year. In 2012, one shop closed its doors for good every hour -- and despite loyal followings, shops that have been open for decades are finally throwing in the towel.
As a result, thousands of premises are left boarded up, abandoned and lifeless. Rather than waiting for retailers to rent the property, U.K. ministers want to use such real estate for a new purpose -- building new housing to ease the shortage of flats and houses available.
The U.K. government will soon launch a consultation to explore how to change planning regulations so such properties can be converted more quickly.
Planning Minister Nick Boles said:
"We need to think creatively about how to help town centres thrive in this new era. We want to encourage retail activity into the prime shopping streets in the heart of their town centres and adopt a more relaxed approach to underused retail frontages. If a place does not operate economically people won't want to live there."
It will be up to each local authority to decide what happens in different areas.
A recent report suggested that London alone has roughly 7,000 abandoned shops, which costs councils £350 million per year in lost revenue.
Image credit: Flickr