Your Voice, Your Vote: Repurpose our town centres

Phil Jobson, a man with dark hair in a high street
Image caption,

Pharmacy businessman Phil Jobson has called on parties to make more "efficient use" of empty buildings

  • Published

In the run-up to the general election, the BBC is looking at the issues that matter the most to you, as part of Your Voice, Your Vote.

More than 200 people have already got in touch across the North East and Cumbria.

One of those was Phil Jobson, 63, from Carlisle, who has run a number of veterinary and community pharmacies.

During his career, he has faced many "challenges", from maintaining businesses on the high street to the aftermath of foot and mouth disease, which hit the rural community hard - particularly in Cumbria.

He wanted to know how political parties planned to revive town and city centres, while protecting the green spaces surrounding them.

Mr Jobson told the BBC he wanted to see an "efficient use" of the country's property portfolio.

"We should use spaces we have before building new ones," he said.

Following his own experiences of development, he suggested that with some "creative thought", vacant buildings could be repurposed to include housing, helping to secure the business on the ground floor.

"It's to make the most efficient use of the buildings that we have already got, rather than destroying green spaces around the city, which adds further stress on infrastructure," he said.

"There are transport links within city centres already, there's drainage there, the utilities are all there in the buildings.

"I think if your town centre, your city centre, is more vibrant and there's more going on there and the properties are occupied and used and cared for, that's the sort of aspect that all political parties should be looking at - that's the way to improve the country."

How the parties plan to tackle the issue:

  • The Conservatives have pledged to give 30 towns across the UK £20m each in an expansion of its levelling-up policy, if re-elected. Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said Rishi Sunak and the Tories had a record of taking "bold action to support small businesses"

  • Labour says it will revamp empty shops, pubs and community spaces through "right to buy" community assets to stop empty premises. Its five point plan includes replacing business rates with a system of business property taxation and "stamp out" late payments to "make sure" money gets to high street firms

  • The Liberal Democrats say they will "boost" small businesses and "empower them" to create new jobs, including by "abolishing business rates and replacing them with a Commercial Landowner Levy "to help our high streets"

  • Reform says its plans include abolishing business rates for high street-based small and medium-sized firms and offsetting it with an online delivery tax at 4% for large, multi-national enterprises

  • The Green Party says it will reform VAT so local SMEs pay less, and give local authorities £2bn per year to provide grants to help businesses decarbonise

If you’ve got an issue you would like us to explore, contact Your Voice, Your Vote.

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