Retail units in towns could be turned back into housing as part of the next phase of the government’s bid to save the high street.
Ministers revealed today they intended to consult on the relaxation of planning regulations, which they said would in some cases “allow communities to consolidate high streets” by putting the focus more on residential properties.
“Neither the government nor Mary Portas set out to preserve a historic or stereotype of the high street, dominated by the butcher, baker and grocer”
Mark Prisk, minister for housing
Explaining the plans to look at alternatives to traditional shops, minister of state for housing, Mark Prisk, said: “Neither the government nor Mary Portas set out to preserve a historic or stereotype of the high street, dominated by the butcher, baker and grocer. Instead, we want to enable people to create public spaces which work for local economies and societies now and in the future.”
The government has already relaxed rules for the next three years allowing the conversion of office space to housing and the move to do the same for retail follows calls from some leading experts for town centres to be shrunk.
As well as the change-of-use plans, the government revealed it was launching a new Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Loans Fund, to provide assistance to towns that want to regenerate their centres. It said it would launch a consultation on a new model for BIDs led by property owners.
Prisk, who claimed the government had “taken action” on the back of the Portas Review – now 18 months old – said it had identified “planning restrictions” as a key area as well as providing more incentives for landlords to make better use of empty properties.
“Neither internet shopping nor out-of-town retail are going away, and both have an important role to play in offering consumers choice and competition,” added Prisk. “But the high street can offer so much more: a bustling centre to a community, where people can gather for cultural, entertainment and social activities as well as shopping, eating and evening activities.”