Take Back UK’S High Street

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The UK’s high streets, the beating hearts of our communities, have reached a critical tipping point

Three decades of decline because of the growth of out-of-town retail; the rise of megastores; and more recently a seismic shift towards online shopping, has left the high street vulnerable. Over reliant on retail, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the decline.

We are perilously close to losing these community spaces that are vital to local economies, community cohesion, civic pride, cultural identity, and local distinctiveness.

A new vision for our high streets is urgently needed. We argue that understanding the needs of local communities, giving them greater power and ownership, and enabling diversification of our high streets is essential to their survival.

We are calling for

  • Government to help establish a High Street Buyout Fund designed to act rapidly to purchase important empty high street buildings as they come up for sale, to hold until communities are ready to take them on long term.
  • Government to create a powerful Community Right to Buy that will give communities priority rights to buy high street buildings in which they have registered an interest, and a generous window of opportunity to raise the funds necessary to meet the price.
  • Expansion of Community Improvement Districts providing greater opportunity for communities, businesses and local government to work together to deliver strategically for neighbourhoods.


This new Take Back The High Street report by Power to change explores the reasons why high street vacancy rates have increased and set out the policy change needed for community-led regeneration of our high streets.

This new report warns of rising persistent vacancy rates, discusses the challenges facing high streets and sets out clear policy recommendations for government to help create community-led high streets of the future.

More research & reports

Community businesses and high streets: 'Taking back' and leading forward

This report, from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, takes a strategic look at the role community businesses can play in addressing the challenges of UK high streets. It considers how community businesses can succeed in high streets, what they can contribute, and what support they need to make a long-term difference to restore ‘pride in place’ in struggling town centres.

Community Improvement Districts: What we've learnt so far

The idea of CIDs is now being tested in seven locations in England. The aim of this pilot work is to explore exactly what a CID might be when the theory is translated into practice, how CIDs develop and operate, how they overcome barriers and challenges, and how the idea of CIDs fits within the national policy context. This report summarises emerging learning from the first phase of the CID programme, and outlines key questions for the next phase of research.

Why now is the time for a High Street Buyout Fund

This paper puts forward the concept of a High Street Buyout Fund – an agile fund which will purchase high street buildings and transfer these into community management and ownership. It is borne out of the challenges many community businesses have faced in trying to get a foot on the high street property ladder and built on the evidence of the important role community owned spaces play in maintaining the social and economic vibrancy of a place.

A high street revolution

This report explores the role that private sector developers can play in supporting greater community involvement on our high streets and in our town centres, aiming to draw out lessons for private developers. It explores what conditions would enable private developers to support community involvement more boldly, and the opportunities for developers to proactively support the emergence of a high-quality pipeline of community businesses in the regeneration of our high streets.

Saving the high street: the community takeover

This working paper looks at examples of community businesses operating in high street or town centre locations across the UK and draws out lessons from their experience. It aims to help local communities, local government and national policymakers better understand the potential role of community business in supporting the regeneration of high streets.

Community Improvement Districts: a discussion paper

This paper explores the emerging concept of Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), defined as bodies which provide opportunities for community stakeholders to participate in operational and strategic decision-making for their neighbourhoods. This paper considers the various models, contexts and risk factors to inform discussion of CIDs.

Take Back the High Street: putting communities in charge of their own town centres

This report explores how high streets have declined and puts forward our recommendations for greater community ownership.

News & views from the high street

The latest news and blogs on all things high streets.

Unlocking finance for community business

Access to affordable, flexible and accessible finance is essential to helping community businesses achieve their ambitions. Our latest report shows how we can unlock this funding so communities can create an economy fit for the...

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Our high streets,
our way

The latest case studies from communities breathing life back into their high streets.

Future Yard

A brand new community venue in one of the country’s most deprived wards exists as a template for how contemporary music venues can be run while proudly proclaiming: The Future is...

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