Core Reviews: Would you live in a High Street Café?

Downing Street claimed the proposals were “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the second world war”. What are they exactly?

Café Rouge, TM Lewin, Carcluccio’s, Bella Italia – just a few of the unfortunate casualties that have had to shutter their doors following the national lock down. For people desperate for places to live, these vacant premises could be their next open plan living, kitchen and diner.


Prime minister Boris Johnson’s proposal for shops to “be converted into residential housing more easily”, as set out by government would see more types of commercial premises having “total flexibility” to be repurposed by reforming the use class order. Through permitted development rights, a building used for retail could be changed for use as a café or office without planning permission.

This would, in theory reduce the pressure on the nations green belts. Perhaps might also revive the towns whose economic and social energy was flagging – and bring a bit more energy to the more recent retail-tumbleweed scenery.

High streets will change, but would it be a bad thing if more people lived in the center of towns and become patrons of their local bread maker?

Minister argue that both measures will breathe new life into town centers by quickly creating houses and flats in high streets. The National Housing Federation warned: ”Plans to relax how old commercial building can be use are concerning and could lead to some very poor-quality housing”.

Johnson attributed the reasons for why the country is “so slow at building homes” compared with Europe to “the newt-counting delays in our system [which] are a massive drag on the productivity and prosperity of this country”

Existing commercial properties, such as newly vacant shops, would be “more easily” converted into housing. The measures are aimed at making it easier to create new homes and regenerate vacant buildings.

Those classes exempt from such changes include pubs (phew!), libraries, village shops and other types “essential to the lifeblood of communities”.

Under the new regulations builders will not require planning permission to demolish and rebuild vacant residential and commercial building that are in a state of disrepair, if they are rebuilt as homes.

The government says these would support “both the high street revival by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed and reduced the pressure to build on Greenfield land by making brownfield development easier”

How this affects you & other reforms

As a property owner, if you wanted to extend a space above your garage (for example) you would now be able to through a fast-track approval process- subject to neighbor consultation. This provides a great opportunity if you are considering updating your home with a dedicated office space, whilst creating more value, should you look to sell in the future.

#downingstreet #planning #architecture #homeoffice #refurbishment #conversion #extension #interior #retail #highstreet #reform #commercial #residential