Retail-to-resi plan could ‘breathe life’ into high streets, according to the BPF

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The British Property Federation (BPF) has welcomed the publication of a consultation that could see vacant high street shops converted into homes, but warned the government must learn lessons from similar office to residential proposals.

The BPF believe the average vacancy rate in the high street stands at over 14 per cent, as a result of both the financial crisis and long-term issues such as the rise of internet shopping and the increasing burden of business rates.

The BPF believe there’s little point trying to turn back the clock on our high streets and that alternative uses for empty shops should be found. They have also requested that the government consider housing solutions and community uses such as doctor’s surgeries.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “Retail to residential conversions could be an important step in breathing life into our high streets, and we would very much encourage a flexible approach, particularly in areas with increasingly obsolescent retail stock outside the retail core that is unlikely to be brought back into retail use.

“We’re particularly pleased that government has listened to industry concerns and confirmed it will be up to local authorities to define their core retail areas, rather than a nationally set red line approach, and that there will be exemptions for conservation areas and national parks.

“However, the government must look back at the largely defunct office to residential proposals and ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. It must not be so easy for local authorities to effectively ignore these proposals at a time of such acute housing need.”

What do you, the retailer, think of this proposal? Is this a feasible solution to evolve our high street into a new age?

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