Danson's Forehead wrote:
However, the planning system in its current form is entirely capable of allowing for this to happen, and no relaxation of planning rules are needed.
Interesting points, but if the planning system is already allowing town centres to constantly regenerate themselves, why isn't it happening?
I think vacant units are part of a long term trend that was well underway before the recession even began, partly due to the internet and also competition from out of town shopping centres which people seem to prefer. If town centres are opened up to more housing (and reusing existing structures is far better environmentally than building new ones from scratch on the edge of town meaning increased traffic) it permits the remaining businesses have more customers on their doorsteps which surely has to be a good thing all round.
Already covered to some extent, but the key point is that what you need is a mechanism by which to judge whether the conversion of a shop to a house is a beneficial use of a unit that would otherwise be vacant, or just a short-term fix (causing long-term issues) for a unit that can reasonably be expected to have a future as a shop unit. That mechanism is the planning system. Vacant units were already a long-term trend in some areas, but not in others. Again, that judgement needs to be made at some point.
In terms of bringing residents into a centre, well, yes, that can have a positive effect. But, the positive effects of one shop vs the positive effects of one house in terms of trade/footfall is no comparison really. Once again, the critical thing is to judge whether the unit genuinely has a reasonable prospect of a future as a shop/local service.
As to why it isn't happening now - very little is happening now, whether it be retail development, housing development or anything else. That's not the fault of planning (despite desperate Government efforts to portray it as such.