Today could be the final nail in the coffin for the High Street, which has been slowly withering away for the last 2/3 decades, firstly due to increasing losses to out of town shopping malls, then increasing loss of business to online stores and finally the lockdown. Matters have been made much worse of course as unscrupulous local authorities have used town centres as their personal cash machines, charging motorists more and more to park. Instead of incrementally reducing the number of long-stay parking spaces to force workers to gradually adapt, making more short-stay spaces available to shoppers for free, they have exploited it so much that shoppers have abandoned town centres in their masses.
On top pf that, the gradual increase in business rates has not helped, along with the number of Charity shops, Banks and large chain stores which have nothing more to offer than other stores in easier to reach, locations. Taking Northampton as an example, the closure of British Home Stores and Marks & Spencer had a massive impact in the town centre, but these enormous buildings still sit there empty.
A few years ago, they even had ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ out to rescue the High Street for a not insignificant fee, but in reality, it is not rocket science. Town centres need to go back to their roots, lots and lots of small shops that local shopkeepers can afford, units of between 200 & 1,000 sq ft that are so affordable, that they could even be run by one person single-handed. That is when we would see a ‘Tea-Pot shop’ a ‘Bonzai Shop’ and all the interesting shops that would attract people, but no, instead they have decided to bring in the commercial Guillotine.
The government is tearing up planning red tape from today to allow boarded up shops and abandoned offices to be turned into homes without the need for full planning permission, under new laws being introduced today. Changes to the planning system will make it easier for business owners and developers to ‘repurpose’ premises that are no longer needed and bring them back into use.
In a further move to support town centres, families will be offered a new fast-track system allowing them to add up to two storeys to their homes. The rule shake-up will mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes, allowing commercial and retail properties to be quickly repurposed, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The latest changes, which will come into force in September, are designed to help breathe new life into high streets hit hard by the lockdown, as well as opening up a new route for housing provision. At present, firms need full ‘change of use’ planning permission to convert a shop or office into a new type of business or into housing.
From September, they will be offered a fast-track process for approval. Developers will also be allowed to demolish vacant buildings for new purposes without full planning permission.
This will open the floodgates for inner-city ghettos, centred around hastily converted monstrosities with little more than profit as their motive, which does beg the question, who will benefit most from this urban suicide?