Protect high street from planning reforms, ACS urges

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has warned that high street shops are at risk from the relaxation of planning regulations.

The government wants to allow stores vacant for more than three months to be converted into housing without planning permission, starting from 1 August.

However, the ACS said it was “concerned” that local shops could be lost because housing is much more valuable than commercial space.

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In its submission to the housing select committee, the group calculated that the reforms could heavily impact the 63 per cent of convenience stores located in rural and suburban areas.

It said conversions should only happen after considering the local area’s character, services, and economic health.

“It is important that these changes are made on a measured and planned basis to prevent commercial to residential conversions from undermining […] local access to groceries and essential services,” ACS chief executive James Lowman said.

The group also called for “safeguards” to protect local shops from the reforms, and a reinstatement of the flat conversion allowance to bring empty spaces above stores into residential use.

The intervention comes after the government revealed it will require councils to designate land for development or preservation as it seeks to hit its target of building 300,000 houses a year.

Independent retailers


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