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Government to ease rules to turn shops into homes

Planning minister Nick Boles is to announce today plans to scrap rules that govern whether shops can be turned into homes.

Plans being put forward this week will suggest that landlords should have “permitted development rights” to convert “under used-retail frontages” into housing in the hope it will create a boost to the country’s ailing high streets.

Under the proposals, the Department for Communities and Local Government will ask local authorities to decide which shops should be considered “prime retail frontage”, while the rest could be scrapped.

The policy will target side streets and edges of town centres, in the hope that an influx of residents will boost the remaining prime retail and restaurant areas.

Boles said: “People’s shopping habits are changing very fast as a result of the rise in internet shopping and changes in lifestyles and working patterns.

“We need to think creatively about how to help town centres thrive in this new era. We want to encourage local councils to concentrate retail activity into the prime shopping streets in the heart of their town centres and adopt a more relaxed approach to under-used retail frontages.”

But according to The Guardian, it is likely to be resisted by local councils who want to retain “strategic control over their shopping parades”.

“Central government is a poor place to make policy that affects local communities,” Dale Atkinson, spokesman for the Local Government Association, told the paper.

“It is local residents that should make decisions about how their neighbourhoods look and feel. The character and amenity of a neighbourhood should be negotiated locally.”  

Most recent figures from the Local Data Company show that there are nearly 22,500 empty shops in the UK’s top 650 town centres.

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