The safe re-opening of the high street following the lockdown will be fundamental in kick-starting the economy and for businesses of all sizes. Firstplan is working with many of our clients to see how best to use the planning system to address the issues created by social distancing and how the system may need to adapt to provide greater flexibility to high street traders.
We have recently sponsored and contributed to the ‘Future high streets: retail, food and tourism’ report by Future Cities Forum. Firstplan Director Mike Mills discusses innovation within the planning system, stating that:
“There are new formats around food markets and restaurants coming up and these can be difficult to fit in with traditional property use classes. At Firstplan we act for a number of these operators and the question is whether the model fits in with A1, and the local authority may argue that it does not. This has led to a lot of challenges. What we find is that the ‘Uses Classes Order’ has a lot of catching up to do if it is to embrace new and innovative models coming to the high street. Are they shops, restaurants, or are they bars? They may have elements of each and the easy way out is for the local authority to refuse permission.”
“As part of a consultation last year, the Government mooted the possibility of merging all the A use classes into one single use class. Whilst it could be controversial in some quarters, such a move would bring about greater flexibility within high streets to move between different uses to reflect market demand and to better capture current and emerging new food-focused concepts. Consideration should also be given to quasi retail uses such as beauty treatment centres, nail bars where sales occur on sites and also showroom and ‘click and collect’ where the transaction may not necessarily occur on site but clearly attract visiting members of the public.”
Flexibility of the high street is now more important than ever, which is likely to result in a push for greater flexibility in the use classes system, alterations to stores to support expanded collection and greater street trading for restaurants, bars and retail stores.
The report is available here: https://www.futurecitiesforum.london/iet-forum-report