Over two years have passed since the first COVID lockdown in the UK which exacerbated pre-existing problems facing high street shopping centres.

One of the Government’s priorities is its Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which it says will help save the high street. The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is due to be formally unveiled in May 2022. It sets out a 12-point plan with missions ranging from 5G internet access to education improvements and, importantly for the high street, restoring pride in town centres and raising engagement in local communities.

Michael Gove says that the Bill will give powers to local authorities to compel landlords of empty high street stores to fill vacancies. It is anticipated that qualifying properties will be those that have been vacant for over six months, however, landlords will be given a grace period to find tenants on their own terms. If they cannot bring in new occupiers themselves, then the local authority will be able to impose a compulsory rental auction which will invite prospective tenants to bid for a lease of the property and the property will then need to be let to the highest bidder.

Landlords were one of the most affected and least supported groups during the COVID crisis and have only recently had limited powers reintroduced to seek redress against defaulting tenants. A lot of attention will be paid to how the proposed reforms affect their rights as property owners. The hope will be that the Bill acts as a stimulus to reinvigorate the high street and that the letting of some shops on compulsory rental auction terms will bring new businesses into the high street on more competitive terms.

For advice as to how the proposed legislation could affect you or if you would like friendly, down-to-earth legal advice on buying, selling and leasing properties, you can contact our experienced residential or commercial property teams at Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939, by email, or through the online chat below.