Council identifies 22 empty shops ripe for renovation

Picture of Palmers Department Store in Great Yarmouth for EDP Norfolk Magazine feature on their 170t

Palmers in 2007. The shop is now boarded but hoping to spearhead a student-led renaissance for Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Archant

As the government announces its strategy to rejuvenate down-at-heel town centres Great Yarmouth says it is already tackling the issue.

A report from Power to Change revealed more than a fifth (21.8pc) of Yarmouth's shops were empty, 63pc more than in 2011.

The town’s persistent vacancy rate, where a shop has been closed for more than three years, is almost twice the national average at 8.4pc.

Under plans set to be unveiled in Tuesday's Queens Speech landlords could be forced by councils to rent out empty shops in a "rental auction."

Carl Smith

Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council says the town is 'ahead of the game' when it comes to regenerating the town centre. - Credit: Archant

"High streets up and down the country have long been blighted by derelict shopfronts, because they've been neglected, stripping opportunity from local areas," the prime minister said.

"We are putting that right by placing power back in the hands of local leaders and the community so our towns can be rejuvenated, levelling up opportunity and restoring neighbourhood pride."

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has released details of its plans to improve the market place and surrounding area.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has released details of its plans to improve the market place and surrounding area. Pictured is one of the designs. - Credit: Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said regenerating the town centre was already a priority under its £20.1m Town Deal, and Future High Streets funding and that 22 empty properties had been identified as ones that could be brought back into use with a particular focus on the upper storeys and the potential for residential.

New university learning campus

A new university learning hub is being billed as one of the drivers for a prosperous future in Great Yarmouth in the former Palmers store - Credit: GYBC

He said the key driver in Yarmouth was the £7.5m university campus bid for the former Palmers Department Store bringing a new student population, increasing footfall, and driving demand for places to live, eat, drink, and shop.

Overall he welcomed the Government announcement but said Yarmouth was "ahead of the game" with traders moving into a new £4.7m market building.

He said there would likely be a transition away from the retail-led high street to more community spaces like the former Greenwoods menswear store which is being transformed into a heritage hub with flats above.

Under the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill measures to revive England's high streets, councils will be given powers to take control of buildings for the benefit of their communities.

Compulsory rental auctions will ensure that landlords make shops that have been vacant for more than a year available to prospective tenants.

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Authorities will also be given greater powers to use compulsory purchase orders to deliver housing, regeneration schemes, and infrastructure.