Shop conversion points to 'detrimental trend'
By Simon Hacker | 17th March 2023
A shop in Nailsworth is likely to be converted into a house if planners agree – but the move has triggered a broader warning that market towns could be under threat in the wake of recently relaxed development laws.
Formerly trading as Angelique Hair Fashions with a flat above, 3 Church Street in Nailsworth is two properties away from Walkers fish and chip take-away, but the street is now claimed to see little retail activity.
In a submission to Stroud planners, estate agents Perry Bishop said they had marketed the property in 2022 as a retail opportunity, but it had garnered little interest. Supporting the conversion, the agent said: "The property is off the main road and not really visible or viable as a commercial outlet."
An assessment by the council stated the property is in a terrace of buildings that are now predominantly residential. Planners were told: "The neighbouring property to the left is a Georgian house with an old shopfront, currently in use as a pottery workshop. The neighbouring property to the right is a Victorian house which was historically used as a shop, but has since been made fully residential and the old shopfront has been removed."
Proposed window changes, from uPVC back to timber, would improve the building's presence in the town's conservation area.
The Nailsworth bid comes after 2021's announcement from then housing minister Robert Jenrick, outlining a relaxation to planning laws for retail-to-domestic conversion. In some circumstances, such change can be made under permitted development rights, with no need to apply for full planning permission.
Tony Davey, chair of the Stroud and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: "Jenrick's change has not become a issue for the area as yet," but he added that it exists as a potential problem.
"We are noting that more bids are for creating residential space overhead, but conversion of shops themselves presents significant problems for our market towns in terms of the retail attraction and, also, if it goes too far, could have a detrimental effect on the town as a whole."
Mr Davey, who chairs the interests of 600 businesses and enterprises in and around Stroud, said the Chamber is confined to feedback on applications, but "makes its views clear" to SDC's planning officers.
In 2019, the government committee on 'High streets and Town Centres in 2030' reported: "We do not believe that the high street is dead, but we do agree that a tipping point has been reached. An enormous change has taken place in retail. The traditional pattern of making purchases in physical stores, both in and out-of-town, has been profoundly disrupted by the growth of online shopping.
"High streets and town centres need urgently to adapt, transform and find a new focus in order to survive."
It concluded: "We are convinced that high streets and town centres will survive, and thrive, in 2030 if they adapt, becoming activity-based community gathering places where retail is a smaller part of a wider range of uses and activities."
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