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The UK high street has faced pressure over the past several decades due to a variety of factors, including the growth in digital retailing. Recent data has suggested that in some areas, such as the number of vacant shops, the decline may be beginning to slow although it is not yet clear whether that is a long-term trend.

The Coalition Government commissioned the Portas Review and funded the subsequent Portas Pilots to try and counter the decline of high streets.

In addition, to assist with the rejuvenation of town centres, the Coalition Government implemented the National Planning Policy Framework which included specific tests to be applied when planning for proposed “town centre uses” which are not in an existing town centre: the sequential test and the impact test. The tests apply to all town centres which may be affected by the proposals and not just those closest to the proposed development.

Recent discussion of high streets has also included the role of charity shops and business rates, for example, in the 2014 Business, Innovation, and Skills Select Committee report, The Retail Sector. This has been part of a wider discussion on business rates, which included a Government consultation in May-June 2015, the responses to which are currently being evaluated.

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