Empty shops ‘could make new homes’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Melissa Law­ford

FAIL­ING high streets are past sav­ing and should be al­lowed to die, a think tank has said.

A wave of va­cant stores aban­doned by bust firms should be con­verted into 800,000 homes, ac­cord­ing to the So­cial Mar­ket Foun­da­tion.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion ar­gues that it is fu­tile try­ing to pre­vent the col­lapse of a re­tail in­dus­try rav­aged by the rise of the in­ter­net, and pub­lic money would be bet­ter spent else­where.

Scott Corfe, of the SMF, said: “Politi­cians

pledg­ing to save the high street are promis­ing vot­ers the im­pos­si­ble. In­stead of claim­ing they can turn back the clock, lead­ers should aim to make in­evitable change work bet­ter for ur­ban cen­tres and pop­u­la­tions.

“Try­ing to prop up high street re­tail­ers fac­ing long-term de­cline is not an act of kind­ness to work­ers or towns.

“It just post­pones the in­evitable and wastes op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­velop new poli­cies to help work­ers and towns em­brace the fu­ture.”

Laws have been laid out in Par­lia­ment that from Septem­ber will al­low de­vel­op­ers to con­vert empty com­mer- cial blocks in town cen­tres into homes with­out a full plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion.

How­ever, a sep­a­rate gov­ern­ment­funded re­port poured scorn on ex­ist­ing per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment rights, which al­low the con­ver­sion of build­ings such as of­fices and re­tail units into homes with­out full plan­ning per­mis­sion.

These prop­er­ties are typ­i­cally of a lower qual­ity than sites where per­mis­sion is re­quired, the study found.

The re­port was pre­sented by Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don and the Univer­sity of Liver­pool.

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