Press release

Boosting the Great British high street

High streets across the country will be better equipped to meet the needs of their customers.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Canterbury high street

High streets across the country will be better equipped to meet the needs of their customers under measures announced today (25 March 2015).

From 15 April shops and other retailers will be able to install ‘click and collect’ lockers without the bureaucracy of getting planning permission.

The move will encourage more shoppers to their high streets, enabling them to visit more shops to collect their online purchases.

The UK is the biggest user of click and collect services, with use expected to double within 3 years.

Today’s measures are part of a wider package to support the Great British high street, helping to breathe new life into communities and grow local businesses.

Today, the government confirmed a feasibility study will be conducted for a one-stop-shop offering advice to local retailers, councils and trading groups on how to compete on the digital high street.

The study will be led by Google’s UK Sales Director Peter Fitzgerald, and will look at the technology, training, advice, skills and infrastructure that smaller traders need to adapt to the new way people shop and use their town centres.

Ben Dowd, Business Director at O2 and Martin Butler, IBM’s Vice-President of Retail will co-lead a workstream on the ‘High Street Digital Health Index’ to help local authorities and businesses understand how they can improve their digital capabilities.

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said:

Far from threatening the high street, online shopping offers a new opportunity. How we shop is changing radically and I want to help our high streets thrive from online competition.

Today’s measures will mean even more retailers can offer ‘click and collect’ services, encouraging shoppers to visit their businesses and pick up their purchases at a time that suits them.

It’s just one of a range of measures we’re taking to boost the Great British high street, encourage shoppers to the town centre and get shops to grow and thrive.

High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said:

We know digital is the way forward for our high streets and initiatives like the digital index will help traders and businesses to compete more effectively.

I am delighted these industry experts will take forward this work and am sure their advice, training, expertise and support will allow local retailers to reach their full potential.

High streets contribute billions of pounds to the economy and the government is committed to supporting them as part of our long-term economic plan to create jobs and boost local communities.

Reforming the planning system, backing the Great British high street

Since 2010 the government has led far-reaching planning reforms that have put power back in the hands of local people and made it easier to make the best use of existing buildings – while prioritising brownfield land for development to maintain strong green belt protections.

As well as enabling new ‘click and collect’ facilities to be installed without planning permission, other planning changes include:

  • increasing flexibility on the high street so that shops, restaurants and banks can change use between one another
  • bringing other uses to the high street by allowing shops, banks and estate agents to change use to cinemas and gyms
  • always requiring planning permission to change use to a betting shop or payday loan shop
  • making permanent the right for shops, offices, financial and professional services to extend by 100 square metres, and 200 square metres for warehouse and industrial premises
  • enabling retailers to increase the size of existing loading bays by up to 20% to make deliveries easier

Further information

The feasibility study and Digital Index workstream were 2 of the recommendations in the independently published Digital High Street 2020 report commissioned by the Future High Streets Forum.

An updated report (PDF, 1.52 MB) by Southampton University on the performance of British high streets was also published yesterday and has found that flexibility remains a vital part of the UK’s town centre revival.

Proposals that would give Business Improvement Districts’ new powers and responsibilities were published today. Leicester, Lichfield, Hexham and Poole were also named as the latest areas to receive funding from the government’s loan fund to create new Business Improvement Districts and will respectively receive £50,000, £20,000, £40,000, and £42,000.

Further planning changes

Today’s measures to further promote and support the Great British High Street are part of wider General Permitted Development Orders announced today to simplify the planning system.

Other planning changes made this week include:

  • supporting the British film industry by allowing land and buildings up to 15,000 square metres to be used for location shoots for 9 out of every 27 months. Protected areas such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are excluded.

  • helping householders make improvements to their homes by extending permitted development rights until May 2019 for larger, single storey building, rear extensions and conservatories. Current rules that limit extension sizes to 8 metres for detached homes, 6 metres for all others, and no more than half the garden in all cases, will still apply
  • allowing casinos and amusement arcades up to 150 square metres, and warehouses up to 500 square metres, to be converted into homes
  • contributing to renewable energy generation by permitting larger capacity solar photovoltaic panels, up to 1MW, on non-domestic properties

Planning safeguards

The new permitted development rights include safeguards. Some of the new rights require ‘prior approval’ from the local council to ensure that appropriate development takes place in suitable locations, although it is still is less onerous than a full planning application.

Listed building consent is required for any works which would affect the special historic or architectural character of the building.

See a full list of permitted development right planning changes.

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Published 25 March 2015