The communities secretary Sajid Javid has said he will be looking ‘very closely’ at a report published yesterday which recommends that councils do more to support the development of homes above shops, including making sure that local planning documents ‘explicitly make reference’ to such development.

Homes on Our High Streets, published yesterday by the Federation of Master Builders, says that national planning policy changes since 2012, such as changes to permitted development rights, show the “drive and desire of the government to stimulate the delivery of new homes through a broad range of measures”.

The report says that “exploring the potential for house building and redevelopment opportunities on our high streets is the logical next stage to this policy journey”.

“Where there is unutilised space above shops that could be more intensively used or redeveloped into additional housing units, these types of conversions can make useful additions to the housing stock and help local councils meet their housing need”, the report says.

Amongst its recommendations, the report says that councils “should explicitly make reference to building homes above shops on the high street within their various planning documents such as local plans, supplementary planning guidance and and supplementary planning documents”.

The document says that this would “provide a focus for this type of residential redevelopment and signal to the market that this is a worthwhile option that the lead authority is willing to encourage”.

The report also recommends that local authorities should help find ways to overcome “disparate ownership and limited building access and/or infrastructure in order to make redevelopment of residential units easier”.

In a speech yesterday to the Federation of Master Builders, Javid said that the document was a “fascinating report” and “a very timely contribution to the debate”.

“We’ll be looking at it very closely to see how it can help us to fix this country’s broken housing market”, he said.

The Federation of Master Builders says that a poll of MPs it carried out found that more than 90 per cent of MPs think that converting empty spaces above shops could have a significant impact on the housing crisis in their local area. It says that the survey found that 94 per cent “believe it could reverse the housing shortage in their constituency”. 86 per cent thought it could have “a positive impact on the vibrancy of their town centres”.

The report was produced by planning consultancy Lichfields and architectural and design practice Child Graddon Lewis on behalf of the Federation of Master Builders.

Source:  Michael Donnelly, Planning Resource, 13 December 2017

Local Comment:  There is no reason why a similar policy could not be included in neighbourhood plans.  Would you support more flats above shops in Borough Road, Church Road and Derby Road in particular? – Philip Barton