Ministers believe the deregulation will help brands, retailers and landlords reinvigorate UK high streets and allow entrepreneurs to start businesses in disused retail units.
It can cost up to £3,700 to get planning permission for a retail unit to be used for a different purpose. Under the new rules, landlords would be free to temporarily change the use of a shop that has been empty for two years.
It’s also hoped that the changes will help counter the 2 per cent drop in high street footfall and the number of vacant stores. More than 11 per cent of all UK retail units are vacant, according to the BRC.
The Government guide, “Re-imagining urban spaces to help revitalise our high streets”, published today (20 July) draws on the recommendations made by Mary Portas, who was commissioned by the Government to carry out a review of high streets earlier this year.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, says: “Shopping habits are changing and the high street must respond. The trip to town needs to be worthwhile. In just the same way as the cinema offers a better movie going experience than TV the high street needs to come up with ways to give it an edge over internet deals and out of town shopping centres.
“Leaving empty shops to rot is a wasted economic opportunity that spoils the town centre – that is why we are proposing to scrap the damaging red tape that is keeping so many boarded up. This change can unleash our young entrepreneurs to open pop-up shops and turn the high streets into an exciting start-up launch pad.”
Earlier this year the Government named 12 ‘Portas Pilot’ towns that would receive a share of £1.2m to help fund initiatives to revive their high streets. Further towns are expected to be named later this month.