13/8/20 – Could this be the end of the High Street or its saviour?

There has been a lot of press about the changes on planning with regards development but the Governments changes to the Use Class Order which come into effect on the 1st September will have a significant impact on our urban centres in particular.

Matthew Bowen from property specialist Aitchion Raffety explains “The Use Class Order effectively sets out the what a commercial property can be used for, and previously planning permission was required to change a normal retail shop such as a clothes shop A1 use into a restaurant A3 use. Now ‘normal retail’, professional services, offices, clinics, healthcare, dentists, offices, gyms and other indoor leisure facilities will all be in a new class, E.

This means planning permission won’t be required to switch between uses. The fear will be that centres such as St Albans will lose normal retail space and there will be an even higher prevalence of coffee shops and restaurants and this will hurt the remaining retail operators. This could also impact tenants of retail units who have their rent now compared to historically higher rate per square foot operators such as restaurants. Rent reviews could be a minefield until a precedence is set in court. Another potential negative could be for people who own flats above retail units that now become restaurants. As well as the noise and disruption it is likely to have a negative affect on the values and some banks will not lend on flats above restaurants.

The actual affect is of course only something we will see in time but not all properties will suit restaurant or gym use and aspects like ventilation will still require planning permission and may not be granted.

The main aim of the change would appear to be an attempt to get more people visiting town centres and it may be a very good idea given the current economic climate.

We often see small shops in some locations constantly being vacant or having a succession of businesses which fail and this is a negative for all. If, for instance, a 600 sq ft shop became an office then this may bring in a further 10 people who work, eat and use the retail everyday which will benefit all and it certainly would help in some of the areas with higher vacancy rates.

The changes have come as somewhat of a surprise even for planning specialists and they are coming in quickly. In a time of great change generally this will add to it, but it may be a saviour for our retail centres which have seen a downturn in numbers of customers and a switch to online shopping habits.

Landlords of retail properties are certainly encouraged to speak with property specialists going forward and if the result is less vacancy in urban centres then this would seem to benefit all. However, we will not know for a number of years.”

If you require any further information please contact Aitchison Raffety 01727 843 232.