UK’s high streets could become residential as Brits shift online

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Social Market Foundation covid-19 online shopping
The coronavirus pandemic drove shoppers towards online platforms
// The Social Market Foundation has said UK’s high streets could be transformed into residential hubs
// The move could create at least 800,000 new homes, the think tank suggested

The UK’s embattled high streets could be transformed into residential hubs as consumers increasingly shift to online shopping, especially after the coronavirus pandemic.

In a report that seeks to review planning laws, the move could create at least 800,000 new homes, the Social Market Foundation (SMF) suggested.

The SMF also said that while there is an increase in online sales, the decline of high streets across the UK would not be reversed by policies that attempt to “turn the clock back”.


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The coronavirus pandemic drove shoppers towards online platforms as they had to stay home during lockdown.

Meanwhile, the increase in remote working has sparked further declines in town and city centres since lockdown measures were eased.

Major retailers including John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Boots and Halfords have revealed plans to shut stores and reduce staff numbers they face challenges from the pandemic.

In its A New Life for the High Street report, the SMF said the government should seek “new and more beneficial uses for town-centre sites” by tearing down empty shops or turning them into housing.

Under what it called a “conservative assumption”, five per cent of commercial property could be redeveloped, creating 800,000 new homes.

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