UK Government announces new plans to help revitalise town centres

The UK Government has announced new laws that will help make it easier to repurpose commercial and retail space.

These new reforms, will take effect from 1 September and would mean that a building used for retail would now be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval. Simplifying the process and hopefully helping to reduce the number of empty units in town centres

Most shops currently within the A1 Use Class will move into the new broader ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ Use Class E, alongside restaurants and cafes, offices, gyms, nurseries and health centres.

The UK government has stated that essential community assets such as village shops, pubs and libraries will not be affected by the new flexibilities in planning laws, in recognition of the role they play locally. Shops mostly selling food and smaller than 280sq m with no similar shop within a 1km radius will fall under this new ‘Local Community’ Use Class F2.

This new F2 Use Class means stores being converted away from current use to provide another use, for example hot food takeaway or offices, would now require planning permission.

Housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: “We are reforming the planning system and cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing. “These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high-quality homes at the heart of their communities. It will mean that families can add up to two storeys to their home, providing much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.”

In response ACS chief executive, James Lowman, said: “We welcome the government’s plans to make it easier to repurpose retail and commercial space. Local shops survive and thrive by adapting to changes in their local community and customer base, so we support measures to make adapting easier and quicker. “We are pleased that the government has recognised the importance of local shops and other community assets by exempting those in isolated areas from the proposals.”

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