The Guardian view on the future of high streets: let communities decide | Editorial

Changing rules on commercial-to-residential property conversion will create a developers’ free-for-all

One of the pleasures of post-lockdown life has been the chance to go back to familiar businesses and high street shops, putting some much-needed cash into tills. Though often hit by the long-term shift to online retail – which the pandemic, of course, accelerated – such places continue to knit the social fabric together in vital ways. But despite all the local goodwill and the revival of trade, for some much-loved ports of call it may be a case of too little, too late. According to a review published this month, Britain’s high streets are threatened by a “tsunami of closures”, thanks to the debt taken on by small business owners during the past year-and-a-half.

The report concludes that “urgent support is required” if a trail of destruction is not to unfold, when loans are called in and tax breaks end. Unfortunately, the government is about to make matters worse, not better. Next week, Whitehall plans to unleash a developers’ free-for-all that threatens to irrevocably change the character and texture of town centres and high streets across the country.

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How do we know when England has reached a peak in Covid infections? | Graham Medley

The trajectory of the pandemic might look more like a range of hills rather than a single mountain

While the government’s decision to remove most lockdown measures in England was widely expected to result in a large wave of infection and disease, the number of new cases of Covid-19 has been falling over the last five days. Many hope this could mean that we’re past the peak. Yet the reality is more complicated. This is the first time an epidemic has taken place in a highly vaccinated population without control measures in place, so we are in uncharted territory. There is considerable uncertainty about what the next two months hold.

The big questions are how high the current wave will get and how long it will last. The number of people in hospital and dying of Covid-19 is directly linked to the number of infections. It’s impossible to accurately predict when we’ll reach the peak of infections, or how long it will take to come back down from this (if I had a pound for every time I’m asked “are we there yet?”, I’d be able to give away a lot of money).

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