Further expansion to Permitted Development Rights could be one solution to the death of the High Street

The retrenchment of the retail industry has been well documented in recent years, none more so than for Marks & Spencer who have announced they plan to close 100 stores by 2022. When coupled with the ongoing issues of the UK’s housing deficit, results in a bleak picture for the future of our town centres.

Currently, permitted development rights (PDR) allow for the conversion of up to 150m2 of retail floor space (Use Class A1) to residential (Use Class C3). However, with the continued loss of large high street retailers, resulting in large empty retail units, the further expansion of PDR to include conversion of larger (> 150m2) retail units is seen by Henry Butt, Associate Director at AEW UK Investment Management as the solution to both the retail and housing crises.

In a similar vein to the permitted conversion of office space (Use Class B1) to residential (Use Class C3), an expansion of PDR could remove the floor space limit to boost town centre housing supply. Ultimately, town centres could be reimagined, embracing todays ‘work, live, play’ ethos as the increased residential population within town centres would heighten demand for associated land uses to relocate to urban centres.

Concerns have been raised by Councils in relation to the loss of planning obligations and CIL receipts from permitted development. However, town centres typically benefit from a broad range of existing infrastructure types, meaning that any future residents will be better served than in more peripheral residential locations.

The traditional functioning of town centres throughout much of the UK no longer fits with the modus operandi of 21st century retail and as a result, change is needed. Expanding PDR for retail to residential would, however, require significant analysis before any decision is made, but initial observations are positive.

Author: Robbie Locke


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