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Don’t let shops be converted to homes, urges developers’ trade body

A property industry body representing developers wants the government to think again about making it easier for redundant High Street shops to be converted into homes.

The British Property Federation says the government’s suggestion to create a new Permitted Development Right to enable more commercial, business and service premises to be converted to residential could make the decline of Britain’s High Streets worse, not better.

“Rather than encouraging careful consideration of what might be the most appropriate use for a store and its location, within the context of the entire High Street, this new PDR will result in property developers prioritising residential” explains the BPF in an open letter. 

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“This will impede any impetus for lower value uses - such as independent retailers, creches or community hubs - which do not offer the same swift financial returns but are vital to providing High Streets with a unique identity and more purpose and diversity.”

The BPF says that according to government figures, PDR conversions to residential under existing rules have been falling. In 2018-19 there were 14,331 conversions but in 2019-20 this fell to 10,589.

Previously the peak was 17,751 in 2016-17.

There has been criticism of the quality of homes produced by PDR conversions in the recent past, especially from offices to residential.

The BPF’s statement this week says: “While there are many examples of high quality PDR homes, there is growing evidence of, and media attention on, poor quality PDR homes, eroding trust in developers. Growing distrust of the property sector and the development process will make it more difficult for responsible developers to bring forward much-needed high quality investment that will underpin a more positive future for the High Street.”

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