Thursday, December 7, 2023

80% of shops on high streets could be lost to “office block conversions”

NEW research from the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and University College London (UCL) reveals that 80% of shops and other commercial premises on highstreets across England could be lost because of further changes to planning rules.

Lively, useful and safe town centres and high streets are crucially important to the wellbeing of communities. They are the hearts of our towns and cities – they are where we go to socialise, buy groceries, or access important support services such as childcare. In recent years, though, high streets across England have been ravaged by the rise of online retailing and the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic. In response, the government has made bold claims about ‘reinvigorating’ them, ‘levelling up’ ‘left-behind’ places, and ‘building beautiful’. But at the same time as making these claims it has actually stripped away councils’ ability to shape their local places, or ensure that new homes are fit to live in.

With little fanfare, the government has this week (1 August) changed planning rules in England so that the vast majority of shops and other commercial buildings, including restaurants, cafes, offices, gyms, nurseries, day centres and light industrial units, can be made into homes without planning permission.

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