Applications to turn shops into houses soar but councils block almost half

Empty store
// The number of applications to convert high street shops into houses soared 37% in 2020/21, according to research from law firm EMW
// However, councils rejected nearly half of all conversion plans

Developers are increasingly attempting to transform high street shops into housing, new data has found.

Law firm EMW research showed that store conversion applications jumped 37% with 677 applications made in 2020/21, compared to 494 in 2019/2020.

However, the law firm found that almost half (45%) of applications were rejected by local authorities

READ MORE: Government to force landlords to let out shops vacant for six months

EMW principal Marco Mauro said: “Some local authorities are hesitant about losing too much commercial space. If too many shops are lost, the value of a high street as a destination is eroded, often permanently.”

However, 14.4% of high street retail units remain vacant, according to the latest figures from the BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor, with the demise of large chains such as Topshop and Debenhams hitting the high street.

Mauro pointed out that developers had more chance of winning planning approval if they proposed mixed-use developments rather than solely residential schemes.

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