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Think Struggling Retail Should Be Converted To Resi? Be Careful What You Wish For.

High Street in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland

The Royal Town Planning Institute has warned that relaxing planning regulations and allowing retail assets to easily be converted to residential “could sound the death knell for many ailing high streets”.

The RTPI wrote a letter to housing minister Kit Malthouse in response to a government consultation about whether to extend permitted development rights to high street retail, which would allow owners to convert shops to homes or offices with planning permission. Currently the regulations allow offices to be converted without planning consent in most areas around the country.

According to Property Week, the RTPI said expanding permitted development rights to the high street would create “dead frontages” which would reduce the number of visitors. The body also said it would not do anything to increase the supply of affordable homes because under current permitted development rights, developers converting property from one use to another don’t have to provide affordable units.

“Rolling out permitted development could sound the death knell for many ailing high streets, while having little or no impact on creating more affordable homes,” RTPI Chief Executive Victoria Hills said.

“No one would argue that we need more affordable homes, or that high streets must adapt with more mixed uses, but change must be part of a planned, local vision.”