Recently Labour announced plans to save the high street whilst visiting the neighbouring town of Great Yarmouth.

Ipswich and Colchester like many other towns across the UK have since seen a decline in footfall since COVID-19 and unfortunately, this has resulted in several stores closing. Most recently in Suffolk, this included Debenhams, which had been trading in Westgate Street since 1872 as Footmans.

Sir Keir Starmer said during an interview with the BBC that Labour would support the high street by:

  • Cutting business rates for small businesses, paid for by raising taxes on online companies such as Amazon; Labour has said it wants to scrap business rates altogether in the long term.
  • Introduce a £700m voucher scheme allowing small businesses to make energy efficiency measures, for example, installing double glazing or buying electric vehicles.
  • Tackle late payments to small businesses, by forcing big businesses to publish information on payment practices in their annual reports.
  • Give local councils powers to take over empty shops and reopen them without consent from property owners.
  • Introduce town centre patrols as part of its pledge to recruit 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSO officers.

The Future of the High Street

However, the steps whilst beneficial, arguably did not address the digital competition the high street faces.

The future of the high street is likely to involve a combination of physical and digital experiences. Brick-and-mortar stores will need to adapt and offer unique experiences that cannot be replicated online. This could include immersive and interactive elements, personalised services, and community-focused initiatives. Integration of technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality may also play a role in enhancing the in-store experience.

Additionally, high streets may become more diversified, with a mix of retail, entertainment, leisure, and dining options to create vibrant destinations. Collaboration between local businesses, government, and community organisations will be crucial in revitalizing the high street and making it a thriving hub once again.

Converting Commercial Property into Residential

We have witnessed a lot of commercial buildings being converted into residential accommodation.

The conversion of high street shops into residential buildings is a possibility, especially in areas where the demand for housing is high and the viability of traditional retail is declining. Converting commercial spaces into residential units can help repurpose underutilised or vacant properties and contribute to addressing housing needs in urban areas. However, such conversions may be subject to local planning regulations and considerations such as zoning, infrastructure, and community impact. The decision to convert high street shops into residential buildings will depend on various factors, including market demand, economic feasibility, and the vision of local authorities and property owners.

How do you convert a commercial property into a house or apartment?

Converting a shop into a house typically involves a series of steps and considerations. Here is a general outline of the process:

  • Research and Planning: Understand the local planning regulations and zoning laws that govern the conversion of commercial spaces into residential use. Consult with local authorities or planning departments to ensure compliance with building codes and obtain any necessary permits or approvals.
  • Feasibility Assessment: Assess the feasibility of the conversion, considering factors such as the size and layout of the space, structural requirements, access to utilities, and any potential limitations or challenges.
  • Design and Layout: Work with an architect or designer to develop a layout that maximises the functionality and livability of the space as a residential unit. This may involve reconfiguring walls, creating bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen areas, and optimizing natural light and ventilation.
  • Structural Changes: If needed, hire a contractor or structural engineer to assess and make any necessary structural changes to meet residential building requirements. This may involve modifying load-bearing walls, reinforcing foundations, or upgrading electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Utilities and Services: Ensure that the space has access to essential utilities such as water, electricity, and gas. Make any required connections or upgrades to meet residential standards.
  • Building Regulations and Permits: Obtain the necessary permits and approvals from local authorities for the conversion. This may include planning permission, building control approval, and compliance with fire safety regulations.
  • Construction and Renovation: Engage contractors and builders to carry out the necessary construction work, including interior renovations, plumbing, electrical installations, and any other modifications needed to transform the space into a livable residential unit.
  • Interior Design and Finishing: Once the construction work is complete, focus on interior design elements such as flooring, lighting, painting, and other finishing touches to create a comfortable and appealing living space.
  • Compliance and Inspections: Ensure that the converted space meets all relevant building codes and regulations. Schedule inspections as required by local authorities to obtain the necessary certifications and compliance documentation.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and processes may vary depending on the location and local regulations. Consulting with professionals such as architects, contractors, and local authorities is highly recommended throughout the conversion process.

If you require any legal advice about commercial property, property development, investment or buying at auction please contact us on 01473 229220.

(Photo Credit: Sonya Duncan)