A report published today by the FMB highlights that “there is significant untapped potential to create additional homes above shops on or around the high street”.
While it does raise some issues that need to be tackled, it said these could be successfully navigated by working together.
This report was given backing by Communities secretary Sajid Javid, who was speaking at the FMB to coincide with its launch.
“This government has, quite rightly, put a lot of time and effort into regenerating high streets and strengthening local economies,” he said.
“That has generally focussed on the retail side of things, but as the report you’re publishing today shows there is no reason why commercial and residential cannot coexist happily together. I grew up in the flat above the family shop, so I’ve seen for myself how it can work not just in theory but in practice too.
“That’s why last month’s Budget set out plans to make it easier to create quality homes in empty spaces above high street shops,” he added.
Not insurmountable challenges
The FMB report noted that there is the potential to bring forward additional residential units across a wide range of building types in differing urban settings, with the high street chief among these.
There are challenges to development but they are not insurmountable, the FMB said. And in order to overcome these challenges, it proposed the following recommendations:
- Local authorities should explicitly make reference to building homes above shops on the high street within their various planning documents.
- 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.
- Where the market is not yet strong enough to make such development viable, central government should make available low cost loans, grants and fiscal incentives.
- Local authorities, local community groups and developers should work collaboratively with property owners to highlight the potential of this type of development.
- All partners involved in building residential units above shops should harness the ability of local community groups to catalyse development.