The high street is dying but not yet dead and can still be revived and reimagined, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to a new report by a Committee of MPs.
Responding to the ‘High streets and town centres 2030’ report published today by the Select Committee for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “I’m really encouraged with the visionary approach this report has taken, as it looks at how we need to fundamentally reimagine the ways that we regenerate our high streets in order to adapt to the challenges of modern life. Central to breathing new life into our high street is converting empty or underused spaces above shops into new homes. These kind of homes would be ideal for young families and professionals, and would benefit the high street through increased footfall to the ‘activity-based community gathering places’ which the report wants us to aspire to. The FMB report ‘Homes on our high streets’ sets out a number of creative ways that we can overcome the challenges laid out by the Select Committee, and which are associated with regeneration projects, including disparate ownership and preserving local characteristics. In this regard, I was particularly pleased with the Committee’s conclusion that the government must review the planning powers currently available to local authorities, with a view to strengthening them and empowering local authorities to deliver on town centre transformation and, at the same time, the government’s ambitious housing targets.”
Berry continued: “With a survey of cross-party MPs showing that 90% of respondents recognise the potential of our existing buildings to help solve the housing crisis, I would urge the government to accept the recommendation to conduct a review of our high streets as quickly as possible. In particular, the government must deliver on its commitment to review the Compulsory Purchase Order process, which could help speed up regeneration of high streets. However, contrary to the Committee’s conclusion that Permitted Development Rights risk undermining a local authority’s ability to plan for their housing delivery, streamlining the process for upwards development above certain premises would help them meet their targets while maintaining a more rigorous application process for other kinds of developments. What we must avoid is perfectly good space lying empty and achieving nothing in terms of boosting the local economy or providing homes for individuals and families.”