The change of use process should be used to convert entire sub-high streets to residential or other uses while successful independent retailers are relocated into the main commercial centre.
That is one of the key recommendations in a report on how to reinvigorate the high street produced by Bill Grimsey once chief executive of Wickes, the chain of hardware stores, and Iceland, the frozen food retailer,
His diagnosis suggested that there is too much retail space in the UK and that the best way to safeguard the high street and town centres is to “repopulate them as community hubs encompassing “more housing, education, arts, entertainment, business/office space, health and leisure – and some shops”.
The report called for a Town Centre Commission for each town with a defined skill base and structure to build a 20-year vision for each town underpinned by five-yearly broad-brush business plans.
Planning applications would be assessed against the agreed business plan and there would be a radical overhaul of business rates and measures to make it easier to visit town centres by car.
The recommendations surfaced as the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that from this month dedicated teams of local experts will train towns how to adapt their high streets to changing consumer behaviour,
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles explained that the training and mentoring is to be targeted at the leaders of 350 ‘town teams’ across the country, created following the recommendations of the Portas Review.
The workshops will be provided by dedicated local high street experts from organisations such as the Association of Town and City Management, Centre for Local Economic Strategies and Business in the Community.