Leading Surrey & Berkshire land agents Aston Mead is throwing its weight behind a new report which suggests that thousands of new homes could be delivered across the UK by developing vacant space in high streets.
The report, ‘Making Sense of Mixed-Use Town Centres’ produced by planning and development consultancy Turley, says that there is currently around 8 million square metres of unused floorspace across the UK’s urban centres, and that even if only a third of it was apportioned to residential development, some 45,000 homes could be delivered.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Charles Hesse said: “People often bemoan the vast areas of empty space in our high streets. But we should see this is as an opportunity rather than a problem. If we started creating new properties where there are currently vacant buildings, thousands of homes could be created.
“What’s more, that figure of 45,000 new homes assumes that any new building would not be carried out above the level of existing properties. If planning regulations were relaxed to allow even a modest increase in height, then an even higher number of new homes could be created.”
Charles Hesse also says that town centres need to embrace mixed-use development in order to thrive. He explained: “We should stop seeing high streets solely as places to shop, and start to recognise them as potential residential centres as well. There are plenty of people who would love to live right in the heart of the action, and having more people move into our town centres would turn them into more vibrant and dynamic areas.
“We’ve all had the experience of walking through high streets in the evening, only to find them deserted, resembling ghost towns, with no real activity until the start of the next working day. They can feel unsafe and unloved, and are hardly enjoyable places to visit.
“By contrast, more people living in the middle of towns would mean that they would continue to be lively even after the shops were closed, helping footfall in local pubs, theatres and restaurants. Having more people around would make them safer, turn them into desirable destinations after dark, and at last breathe life back into our town centres.”