Retailers have urged the Government to provide them with more assistance to keep shops occupied, as Whitehall unveils a £3m initiative today to try to prevent high streets from becoming ghost towns during the recession.

Hazel Blears, the Community Secretary, will also unveil provisions to help local people or entrepreneurs temporarily convert empty shops into community projects or businesses, such as local art displays, to avoid high streets being boarded up. The provisions include special planning application waivers, standard interim-use leases, and temporarily leasing shops to councils that will allow the shops to get makeovers.

Experian, the information services company, believes that 15% of high street shops, or 135,000 outlets, could be left empty by the end of the year, as retail administrations and financial woes force retailers to close stores.

The Independent