Empty shops ‘could make new homes’
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.