High Street Rental Auctions plan ‘will create opportunities for hospitality businesses’

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: Getty / whitemay
Credit: Getty / whitemay

Related tags High Street Rental Auctions Government Legislation ukhospitality

Government proposals to allow vacant commercial properties to be brought into use via auction will ‘create opportunities for hospitality businesses to move into high streets’, a trade body has said.

UKHospitality says the plan, which was first broached back in 2022​ and will come into effect in September this year, will ‘enable the sector to generate local investment and create places where people want to live'.

“The Government is right to identify hospitality as the bellwether of local economies,” says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

“When hospitality thrives, the high street comes alive. When the sector faces challenges, like it does now, we see more and more empty plots available.”

Under the new powers, announced by the Government yesterday (15 May), high street sites that have been empty for over a year will come under the control of local leaders who can then rent them out to business in the area via an auction.

Auctions will take place with no reserve price, giving local businesses and community groups the opportunity to occupy space on the high street at a competitive market rate.

Businesses that successfully bid for the site will secure a rental lease for up five years.

To help get High Street Rental Auctions up and running as soon as possible, the Government is launching a new ‘trailblazer’ programme so it can work with several communities who are keen to lead the way in quickly implementing the new powers.

There will also be a £2m support pot to help them and other local authorities to get started across the summer.

“We want to bring high streets back to life and these new levelling up powers will help do just that,” says Jacob Young, Minister for Levelling Up.

“A lively high street brings an irreplaceable community spirit – one that is unique to its own area – along with new jobs and opportunities for local people.”

A ‘disappointing step backwards’ for high street pubs

Not everyone in the hospitality sector welcomes the plans.

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has criticised the Government’s decision under the scheme regarding planning protection for pubs.

It follows concerns voiced by the group during consultation, which called on the Government to ensure pubs that became part of the High Street Rental Auction scheme weren’t gutted of their fittings ahead of bids for the premises as this may prevent them from being operated as pubs in the future.

The Government has said further protections stipulating that the removal of fittings such as the dispense systems, bar, toilets, commercial kitchens or cellars will always be at the absolute discretion of the landlord will be included in the legislation, but CAMRA says it doesn’t go far enough and ‘leaves developers a clear path to permanently convert venues’.

“Much of this is a disappointing step backwards for high street pubs,” says Gary Timmins, CAMRA’s pub and club campaigns director.

“High Street Rental Auctions could have been a chance for Government to take a fresh approach and affirm their support for pubs.

“Instead, their response to this consultation is looking like yet another missed opportunity.”

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