Scourge of the ruthless landlords is ‘killing’ Hampstead High Street
- Credit: Archant
Ruthless landlords are “killing” Hampstead’s shopping streets with astronomical rents as rows of premises stand empty, say residents and traders.
Although the business rate review unveiled by George Osborne in his budget may give struggling traders some relief, until landlords in Hampstead follow suit with equivalent rent reductions, the High Street will not survive, say shops campaigners.
“We are seeing all the signs of the death of our high street,” said Jessica Learmond-Criqui, of the Hampstead Shops Campaign who counted nine shops sitting empty in Hampstead High Steet and Heath Street.
“We have never had this level of vacant shops in Hampstead in all my 25 years of living here.”
“Although high business rates are part of the problem, it is the high rents from landlords who do not care about the community that is making so many businesses shut up shop.”
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Ms Learmond-Criqui, chairman of the shops campaign’s town team, said she has been contacted by traders interested in taking over vacant shops in Hampstead.
“Once they factor in the rent, they realise it is just not viable,” she said.
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“We are appealing to these landlords to work with us, but it’s hard to do so, when we don’t even know who they are. They are faceless companies and there is no contact to speak to.
“They have no interest in the high street or the Hampstead community. Some shops have been empty for five years. They are killing Hampstead.”
She is calling for a central register of landlords to be set up to make them more accountable to communities.
Retail marketing expert Eva Pascoe, who sits on the town team, also blames the demise of the high street on the trend towards online shopping and the high business rates demands but agrees that in Hampstead, rent is a major factor.
She believes if rents were fair, high streets would revive as cafes and lifestyle service businesses, such as grooming, beauty and massage shops not dependent on the internet, would move in to replace retailers.
“This will not happen while rents are so high,” she warned.