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BLUEPRINT BRITAIN

Boris Johnson sets out high street revival plans with shut up shops turned into homes and cafes

STRUGGLING high streets have been given a boost with a shake-up to planning laws revealed today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will "revive the high street" by enabling town centres to change empty shops into homes, cafes or offices, without planning permission.

The Prime Minister has today unveiled plans to "revive" the high street
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The Prime Minister has today unveiled plans to "revive" the high streetCredit: Sky
Plans have already been submitted in Maidenhead to redevelop an "outdated" 1970's shopping centre into a modern neighbourhood
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Plans have already been submitted in Maidenhead to redevelop an "outdated" 1970's shopping centre into a modern neighbourhood
This is the shopping centre developers plan to revamp in Maidenhead
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This is the shopping centre developers plan to revamp in Maidenhead
Developers want to create a new square alongside homes, cafes and shops in Maidenhead's town centre
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Developers want to create a new square alongside homes, cafes and shops in Maidenhead's town centre
Offices and homes will be better integrated in the town centre
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Offices and homes will be better integrated in the town centre
The goal is to create an area where people can live, work and socialise
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The goal is to create an area where people can live, work and socialise

The plan is to breathe life into deserted high streets by transforming shuttered shops into homes or cafes.

It will also redevelop outdated shopping centres into modern neighbourhoods.

A £96million pot has been set aside to provide 101 towns already selected for the "Towns Fund" with £500,000 to £1million each to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.

An additional £900million will be provided for "shovel ready" local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, such as the development and regeneration of key local sites.

Plans to build hundreds of thousands more affordable homes and to help get first-time buyers onto the property ladder have also been unveiled.

Mr Johnson said: "This government will shortly bring forward the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of World War II... to scythe through red tape and to get things done."

Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily.

Alternatively, they could be changed into cafes or offices without requiring a planning application and local authority approval.

In Bolton the council has given the go-ahead to revamp the town's Church Wharf district
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In Bolton the council has given the go-ahead to revamp the town's Church Wharf district
Bolton council wants to create a multi-purpose living, working and leisure complex
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Bolton council wants to create a multi-purpose living, working and leisure complex
A new park and hotel are also on the cards in Bolton's town centre
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A new park and hotel are also on the cards in Bolton's town centre
The redevelopment also includes turning an old court house in Bolton into a boutique hotel
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The redevelopment also includes turning an old court house in Bolton into a boutique hotelCredit: MEN

Builders will also no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.

But pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of building that are "essential to the lifeblood of communities" will not be covered by the shake-up.

Changes to legislation are expected to take place in September to allow these towns of the future to start being created.

The government hopes that by making it easier for brownfield sites to be redeveloped this will in turn ease pressure on green field land.

Developers will also still need to meet the usual standards and regulations.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, believes cutting red tape will help get more planning projects over the line.

High street closures in 2020

HERE'S a round-up of some of the big names on the high street that have gone under this year:

  • Department store chain Beales went into administration in January with 23 shops and 1,052 jobs at risk
  • High end fashion brand Ted Baker said it plans to axe 160 jobs in February
  • Brighthouse and Carluccio’s went into administration at the end of March
  • Mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse said in March that it'll close all 531 standalone stores in April
  • Debenhams entered administration for the second time in 12 months in April, and has since announced a number of store closures
  • Struggling shoe shop Office put itself up for sale in April 2020
  • Oasis and Warehouse closed down in April 2020 with the loss of 1,800 jobs
  • Cath Kidston closed all 60 shops in April 2020 with the loss of 900 jobs
  • Clarks said in May 2020 that it would have to lose 900 roles as high street closures loom
  • Shoe chain Aldo collapsed into administration in June 2020 with five stores permanently closed
  • Victoria's Secrets plunged into administration in June 2020, putting 800 jobs at risk
  • Fashion chain Quiz put its shop business into administration in June 2020, putting 82 stores at risk

He said: "So many of the larger schemes in particular are mired in planning or lending red tape so certainly the concentration on infrastructure will help to release many from that log jam by improving connectivity."

But some towns across the UK have already been working on their own plans to revamp high streets as footfall dwindles and shoppers turn online. 

Just this month, for example, plans were submitted to transform an "outdated, single-use" 1970's shopping centre in Maidenhead, Berkshire into a multi-purpose area with homes, shops, cafes and restaurants. 

Meanwhile in Bolton, the council last year gave the green light for developer Muse to revamp the town's Church Wharf district into an area with both a daytime and evening economy where people can live, work, shop, and dine-out.  

Today's announcement comes as high streets across the UK have taken a hit due to lockdown forcing non-essential retailers to close for three months.

Retailers only began reopening their doors this month, although they have been allowed to trade online throughout the crisis.

Experts at the Centre for Retail Research predict 20,000 stores will close this year, resulting in 235,000 job losses in the retail sector.

The pandemic has so far seen the collapse of Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley, while Debenhams has also been forced to call in administrators for the second time in 12 months.

Oasis and Warehouse have also turned into online only retailers after falling into administration.

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