The government has urged local councils to be lenient on “crazy” planning restrictions on shop security shutters in the wake of last week’s riots.
Getting planning permission for shutters has, until now, been difficult because councils are concerned they could damage the reputation of an area.
In its guidelines for conservation areas, for example, Manchester City Council says shutters have proved “environmentally unattractive, removing visual interest as well as light for passers-by. This creates a hostile environment, particularly intimidating for women and users of adjacent pavements.”
However, images of broken glass and stories of ruined livelihoods following last week’s violence have prompted the government to change its advice.
“Where planning permission is needed for example, for rebuilding work or for new security shutters I ask that you prioritise the processing of these planning applications,” UK chief planning officer Steve Quartermain wrote in a letter to local councils.
In the letter, seen by The Grocer, Quartermain also recommended granting automatic permission for shutters and proposed a consultation on reducing red tape. Currently, all shutters need planning permission and obtaining that requires photos, a site survey, technical drawings, a design statement and a cheque for £190. Applications typically take eight to 12 weeks to be processed.
In some cases, councils even require shutters to be sited behind shop windows, a policy Spar retailer Paul Stone said was “crazy”. “With shutters outside rather than inside the glass, it would have been harder for rioters to get in,” he said. However, aesthetics continue to feature highly in Quartermain’s advice. “It is important to ensure a balance is struck between security and protecting the look and character of our high streets,” he wrote.
He added that streets should be welcoming and that it may therefore be helpful to refer businesses to planning policies or guidelines on shop fronts and shutters.
Retailers urged councils to realise that the ground had shifted since the riots and that security should be at the forefront of shop design.
“We urge councils to work with retailers to ensure that they can make the investment they need to repair stores or enhance security the last things retailers need right now is red tape hampering efforts to recover and rebuild,” said Shane Brennan, public affairs director for the ACS.
Security fears may not be the only reason retailers seek permission for shutters in the coming months. The British Retail Consortium warned that, following the riots, insurers may demand they are installed in certain areas.