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Empty solutions for the high street

11 April 2012

Following the Government’s announcement to accept virtually all the recommendations put forward by Mary Portas last December, but not actually implement any of those on empty shops, VPS is advising property managers and landlords to take action and ensure properties are ready for re-occupancy by keeping them safe, secure, presentable and damage free.

The Government does recognise that empty properties can visibly bring down the attractiveness and prosperity of a high street, which is why it is allocating £10million as a High Street Innovation Fund to one hundred local authorities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. Each local authority will receive a £100,000 grant. With all parties contributing, there is the potential for the £10million fund to actually generate £30million to support new businesses.

Although the funding will help, it is now down to the private sector to deal with the problem and mitigate any issues that can arise with empty retail units on high streets, such as metal theft, squatting or the buildings falling into disrepair.

Nick Tubbs, UK Managing Director of VPS said: ‘‘Mary Portas wanted to wield a big stick at the owners of empty shops, in resisting any sort of aggressive intervention, the Government doesn’t want to punish those landowners left holding empty premises, in most cases reluctantly. The innovation fund will revitalise some borderline cases, however, maintaining the vacant property’s value and ensure it is ready for re-occupancy is the best we can do whilst the market recovers.’’

Managers or landlords of retail units can take the following steps to ensure their property is well protected according to VPS:

You are required by law to inform your insurer immediately when a property becomes vacant. They may have specific requirements to ensure your insurance remains valid.

Undertake a comprehensive risk assessment to assess potential risks, such as fire hazards and public liability exposure as well as the exposure to damage from squatters/criminals.

Drain down services are a cost effective preventative measure, which include the drain down of all water systems, as well as the switching off of other utilities such as gas and electric services. This prevents catastrophic damage to vacant properties if metal pipes are stolen, and makes the property less attractive to squatters.

High security steel screens and doors can prevent unauthorised access to the building and in turn protect the internal fabric of the building. These methods are much more effective than plywood boarding which is easy to breach and can be used by arsonists as flammable material.

Electronic security can be swiftly deployed to provide instant visual monitoring and protection.

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