High street (planning and policy)
High streets and town centres are facing challenges from the expansion of online shopping and the development of out-of-town retail centres.
In 2011, Mary Portas undertook an independent review of high streets and presented her vision for the future in The Portas Review: an independent review into the future of our high streets.
In it, she wrote; ‘With town centre vacancy rates doubling over the last two years and total consumer spend away from our high streets now over 50%, the need to take action has never been clearer. Although some high streets are thriving, most have a fight on their hands. Many are sickly, others are on the critical list and some are now dead. We cannot and should not attempt to save every high street but my findings have led me to believe that unless urgent action is taken, the casualties will only continue to multiply.’
Building the proposals Portas put forward, the Department for the Communities and Local Government (DCLG) devised a range of measures to help the high street, ref 2010 to 2015 government policy: high streets and town centres.
They suggested that ‘Our high streets and town centres are facing serious challenges from out-of-town shopping centres and the growth of online and mobile retailing. Our high streets need to be social places with a vibrant evening economy and to offer something that neither shopping centres nor the internet can match.’
Some of the policies that have been put in place are summarised below.
There have been significant improvements in planning for the high street:
- The National Planning Policy Framework requires that local plans should promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period.
- Planning restrictions have been lifted to help landlords make better use of their empty properties by allowing shorter leasing periods along with help for new business start-ups and facilitating the process of changing commercial units into residential properties.
- It has become a requirement to seek planning permission for change of use to a betting shop or payday loan company.
- The right for shops, offices, financial and professional services properties to extend by 100 square metres and for warehouse and industrial units to expand by 200 square meters has been made permanent.
- Retailers have been allowed to increase the size of loading bays by up to 20% to facilitate deliveries.
- Permitted development rights have been changed to offer town centres greater flexibility for the adaption of existing buildings.
 Other Policies
The government has introduced a range of policy changes to help support local high streets, some of which are summarised below.
 Financial support
In 2013, a billion pound package was announced by Eric Pickles to help support the high street. One of the main aims was to create more jobs by supporting British businesses. Some of the measures outlined in the support package enable shops to develop, expand and take on more employees.
In April 2014, amendments were made to business rates which included:
- A £1,000 discount between 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000, including shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants.
- A cap on the Retail Price Index (RPI) increase in bills to 2% in 2014 to 2015.
- Extending the doubling of the Small Business Rates Relief to April 2015.
- A reoccupation relief for 18 months with a 50% discount for new occupants of retail premises that have been empty for at least a year.
- Providing businesses with the option to pay their bills over 12 months (rather than 10), in order to help their cashflow.
Parking restrictions have been identified as potentially harming local high streets and shops and so a range of measures have been introduced to help alleviate the problem, including allowing local businesses to request parking reviews in their area.
 Local leadership
Support for local communities through community-led renewal and Business Improvement Districts.
 Local markets
Support for new market traders starting up businesses and better promotion of local markets.
 Future High Streets Forum
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Business Improvement Districts.
- Business rates.
- Change of use.
- Cities Devolution Bill.
- City deals.
- Edge of centre.
- Enterprise zone.
- Going for growth, Reviewing the Effectiveness of Government Growth Initiatives.
- Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
- Local Development Orders.
- Local Enterprise Partnerships.
- Local plan.
- Main town centre uses.
- Permitted development.
- Portas review.
- Town centre definition.
 External references
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