Architects have joined a call for government to make it easier to switch between commercial use classes to help high streets in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Last week (30 April) the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) published a report arguing that structural challenges to high streets, such as e-commerce and remote working, have been ‘exacerbated’ by Covid-19.
RICS said planning rules around use change had been created in a more ‘static’ time and should be eased, adding: ‘The seismic nature of what is currently taking place in the commercial property sector should not be underestimated.’
Gort Scott co-founder Fiona Scott, who published a report on ‘adaptive strategies’ for town centres with her practice in January, said she strongly supports the proposal.
‘The idea of more flexibility and moving more easily between use classes, as well as mixing use classes and incorporating multiple uses within the same property [will be crucial],’ she said.
‘Increasingly we are seeing the nesting of uses, where a property operates in one way at certain times but switches to a different use at different times of week or evening: workspace and bar, or café and yoga studio, for examples.’
Scott and RICS both said they did not believe commercial-to-residential use changes should be included under any relaxation of planning rules.
Phil Waddy, chair of RIBA’s planning group, said he agreed that government ‘needs to cut red tape and encourage flexibility’ but said some quality control still needed to be in place…