Recent weeks have seen the issues affecting the High Street hit the front pages once again with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles suggesting that motorists should be allowed to park on yellow lines for short periods when popping into shops as a way of helping revitalise the High Street which was shortly followed by Nick Bowles the planning minister suggesting that the High Street was already beyond revival and that planning policies should be changed to allow for more empty retail units to be converted into residential use.

The High Street has suffered from a perfect storm of events where the unstoppable move to online retail, planning policies seeing out of town shopping centres springing up on the outskirts of virtually every town, the relative increase in business rates and a cut in consumer spending has hit the High Street hard with several major retailers such as HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster and JJB all falling victim to this perfect storm.

The rise of online retail, where consumers can purchase goods from wherever they want to, including the comfort of their own home, provides a convenient, and often less expensive, a forum where consumers can take charge of when and where those goods are purchased and delivered, has recently led to some claims that online retail should be taxed as it does not provide a level playing field for online retailers versus traditional bricks and mortar/High Street retailers.

However, that argument slightly misses the point in that why should online retail be taxed more when one of the major issues impacting traditional High Street retailers is that they are overtaxed through the current system of business rates which is something the Greater Manchester Chamber has been extremely vocal about over recent months. This system where business rates are linked to property valuations as they stood in 2008 (the peak of the market just before the bubble burst) means many businesses are now paying more in business rates than they are in actual rent.

There was a proposed revaluation where business rates were going to be re-valued based upon the current market value of the properties but this has been postponed for at least another two years meaning this is not an issue that is simply going to be resolved overnight.

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