Conclusion: The end game

The movement taking place in empty shops across the UK shows a way forward which benefits local communities and business alike - but it does involve a shift in thinking about town centres.

Since the 1950s, the British town centre has been primarily a space for commerce, dominated by the needs and aspirations of the retail sector.

Before this, town centres were spaces for civic pride, community events and communal activity - markets and marches, parades and displays of civic pride. Business and community were not separate entities, but worked together; and the local business community were philanthropists, funding civic projects such as parks, hospitals and concert halls.

The British Government is currently trying to encourage such philanthropy again and, with the 'Big Society' agenda, simultaneously trying to encourage local communities to take ownership of the management and delivery of community services.

The Empty Shops Network shows a way forward for philanthropy, the Big Society and community ownership; not excluding retail, but making it part of a mixed use of town centre spaces, and making business once again part of the community.

In short, it's time for people to own the High Street again.