Leading industry bodies warn that plan for vacant shop-to-residential conversions will not save our high streets - News

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Leading industry bodies warn that plan for vacant shop-to-residential conversions will not save our high streets

Posted on in Business News , Cycles News , Political News

On the 18Closed streetth Feb 2021 leading industry bodies, including The ACT, ActSmart and many other members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), issued a joint letter to The Rt. Hon. Robert Jenrick MP - Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) - to urge the Government to recognise that its proposals for a blanket permitted development right on our high streets, enabling conversions to residential without planning permission, puts the future of our town centres at serious risk.

However, the MHCLG have now confirmed that the simplified planning process for retail to residential conversions will be going ahead.

The simplified planning process applies to units vacant for at least three months and smaller than 1,500 square metres. These conversions will no longer require full planning permission but instead use prior approval processes to sign off conversions unless there are significant flooding or noise concerns. This concludes MHCLG's consultation on planning flexibility and supporting housing delivery.

The proposal has been positioned as supporting new housing delivery, and part of the solution to the challenges facing UK town centres and high streets - especially in the wake of numerous lockdowns and tiering restrictions due to the Covid pandemic. 

Many organisations, including the British Property Federation (BPF) and London First are opposing the government proposals, saying the "uncontrolled conversion" of vacant shops to residential "will not save our high streets " and "damage town centres".

The BPF launched an appeal to urge the UK Government to recognise "the damaging impact" the plans could have on the future of the country's high streets. The BPF said the proposal would have significant adverse consequences and exacerbate the decline of the UK's high streets, far outweighing any positive contribution to new housing supply.

The lobby group said post-Covid high street recovery would depend on a "vibrant and carefully curated mix" of retail, residential, leisure, hospitality, education, healthcare, logistics and community facilities and services.

"Rather than encouraging careful consideration of what might be the most appropriate use for a store and its location, within the context of the entire high street, this new PDR will result in property developers prioritising residential," the BPF stated.

 

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