Promises to revitalise high streets with a new breed of shops should be abandoned in favour of turning town centres into residential hubs, creating at least 800,000 homes, according to a report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF)that aims to influence a Downing Street review of planning laws. Its report, 'A New Life for the High Street,' that under a “conservative assumption” 5% of commercial land could be released for development, allowing at least 800,000 homes to be built.
It said the decline of the traditional high street could not be reversed by policies that “turn the clock back” to a time before online shopping, especially after the trend accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. Homeworking was also likely to become a permanent feature of many jobs, leading to further declines in footfall in town and city centres and the closure of more retail outlets.
Empty shops should be given a new lease of life as homes or be demolished in favour of modern apartments to support “new and more beneficial uses for town-centre sites”.
SMF research director, Scott Corfe, “Nothing can stop the demise of traditional high street shopping so it would be better for politicians to support the next chapter in the story of the high street, with hundreds of thousands of new homes that bring new life to our urban centres.”