Today the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee released a raft of recommendations in its High Streets and Town Centres in 2030 report, in attempts to help declining high streets and town centres.
Buried within the 84-page, 35,000-word report, the committee have given four systemic issues to why the embattled retail sector is where it is today, especially in the face of how the market has evolved.
Fragmented ownership, retailers’ high fixed costs (rent, rates and tax), but first on that list is that there is “too much retail space.”
An increasing number of empty shops on the high street has become a recurrent and visual reminder that some physical spare is in trouble.
More than 20% of retail spend now comes via the internet, so retailers simply don’t need to stock as much in their own high-street stores.
Radius Data Exchange analysis shows that more than 19.2m sq ft has been relinquished since the start of 2018, proving that bricks-and-mortar retail is in a state of flux.
The question of what to do about this space becomes important, and answers are needed on what to do with what is left behind.
There is certainly a case for reviving vacant retail space, especially if the space has been dormant for a long time. Change of use has helped.
Today’s report highlights the need for increased planning flexibility and a change to the traditional use class order to make it easier to evolve and change spaces.
But what is surprising is the recommendation that permitted development rights be curtailed in town centres to convert retail space into new homes.
This comes despite the acceptance that there is too much retail space – a lot of which is lying empty – and that a lengthy planning process can stifle change where it is needed most.
And all this on top of a UK housing supply crisis and the need to increase footfall in local town centres.
Read more here.