Published: 20th Jan 2020

Excessive red tape has led to ‘dead high streets’ across the country, according to a new think tank study.

The report by the Adam Smith Institute claims that local plans and guidelines have ‘hindered’ Britain’s high streets and led to ‘monopolistic ownership by national landlords’ who have ‘jacked up’ rents for shop owners.

It also criticises the use of ‘primary shopping areas’ which concentrate stores in one small area of a town, creating ‘dead zones’ elsewhere by separating retail from the residential areas where people live.

It also claims that primary shopping areas are often dominated by one or two large single-owner shopping centres, limiting the rental market.

This in turn allows property owners to charge higher rents to small businesses, hurting the high street, according to the think tank.

The limited space reduces variety on the high street, making high streets less attractive to shoppers.

Instead, it argues that councils should encourage mixed-use developments and a diverse range of uses within and around town centres.

And controversially, it also calls for permitted development rights to be expanded to allow conversion of residential or office buildings to retail use and vice versa, which has been criticised in the past.

Earlier this month, a new analysis by the Local Government Association claimed communities have potentially lost out on more than 13,500 desperately-needed affordable homes in the past four years as a result of permitted development rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission,

And in April 2019, the Conservative MP Robert Halfon claimed in Parliament that permitted development laws had allowed ‘landlords to build ghettos and London councillors to socially cleanse their most vulnerable families to places such as Harlow’.

‘Everybody knows Britain’s high streets are struggling,’ said report author, Thomas Walker.

‘In order for that to change we need a new approach to planning policy that gives our town centres the flexibility to react and adapt to rapidly changing economic conditions and consumer needs.

‘We need to move away from the old idea of dedicated retail zones and embrace a more dynamic, mixed-use approach to make our town centres prosperous and create a safe and active environment for residents, workers and visitors,’ added Mr Walker.

The Adam Smith Institute’s head of research, Matthew Lesh commented: ‘High streets across Britain have too often become soulless and empty, and we risk creating a country of ghost-towns. Our one-size-fits-all national planning rules don’t fit anyone or anywhere.

‘We need to encourage the dynamic use of high streets and mixed-use retail, residential and commercial across towns if the government is to revitalise forgotten communities.’

Photo Credit – Fulopszokemariann (Pixabay)

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Mike Riddell

Weird that they’ve not mentioned car parking charges.