It is quite likely that the Covid-19 virus will have a lasting effect on activities involving personal contact such as personal services, catering, hospitality and tourist-related activities.

This is a further blow to high streets and town centres. Any likely virus defence measures will reduce trade and threaten commercial viability.

The natural outcome will be either much higher prices or, more likely, inability to cover overheads, notably rates and rents.

The Government has relieved some businesses of rates as an emergency measure and promises an overhaul of the rating system. This leaves rent as a significant static cost.

Economic reality (and theory) suggest that rents should fall sufficiently to make occupation attractive.

Unfortunately, commercial property represents a classic case of market failure. The response of major retailers has been to refuse to pay rent on order to force concessions from their landlords, but that is only a short-term remedy.

We need a more radical reform to make the market function properly.

I can imagine that with rates based on profitability and rents reflecting real market value there would be no lack of commercial and non-commercial organisations wishing to take the empty space.

The vitality of town centres is more important than their income generating capacity for tax and rent.

Christopher Swain

Mermaid Way, Maldon