// 30 industry organisations warn government that conversion of commercial property to housing could put health of town centres at risk
// The latest restrictions have affected retailers and accelerated the conversion to residential premises
// The government has proposed a blanket permitted development right on high streets
The conversion of commercial property to housing could put the viability of town centres as risk, the government has been warned.
Around 30 industry organisations have written to housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick to express their concerns over the health of town centres.
The latest restrictions have affected retailers and accelerated the conversion to residential premises.
The government has proposed a blanket permitted development right on high streets, but the groups said town centre development should be done in partnership with local authorities and the community and businesses – rather than without planning permission.
The groups include the Association of Convenience Stores, the British Property Federation, the British Independent Retailers Association and the Booksellers Association.
“We welcome government recognition that our town centres must change, but an all-embracing permitted development right that allows most commercial buildings to be converted to housing risks putting the long-term health of our town centres at risk for the sake of a short-term stimulus,” they wrote.
“Putting groundfloor housing in a random and uncontrolled manner within high streets does not draw footfall, does not support new businesses, reduces the potential for business growth and will undermine the viability of existing retail, cultural and commercial activities on the high street and remove convenience stores from local neighbourhoods.
“This will create a vicious circle whereby the reduced viability of the remaining commercial uses, in turn, threatens their existence and incentivises their conversion to residential.
“At the neighbourhood level, we consider that local centres would be particularly at risk. The loss of local shops and services could precipitate their decline at a time when we are putting greater emphasis on the need for walkable neighbourhoods, which provide a range of day-to-day needs in local centres. A change of use to housing is a one-way trip.”