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Plans for blanket permitted development rights to allow commercial buildings to be converted to residential accommodation will sound the death knell for our town centres, says the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN).

NFRN National President Stuart Reddish has co-signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick MP urging him to re-evaluate the proposal.

Mr Reddish said: “Putting ground floor housing in a random and uncontrolled manner within high streets does not draw footfall and does not support new businesses. It reduces the potential for business growth, will undermine the viability of existing retail on the high street and remove convenience stores from local neighbourhoods.

“This policy puts the premises of small businesses at risk of redevelopment, will impact the real diversification of the high street and could threaten the very existence of smaller independent retailers.”

The letter to Mr Jenrick adds: “The planning system has lost the public’s trust, and the extensive use of permitted development rights in the manner proposed, without democratic oversight, will lead to a further erosion of public trust and confidence in the planning system.”

“As representatives from across the economy and society, we believe passionately that town centres must be planned by local authorities working alongside business and the community .It is well-recognised by your department that the best town centres do not just happen but require active coordination at a local level.

“We welcome Government recognition that our town centres must change, but an all-embracing permitted development right that allows most commercial buildings to be converted to housing risks putting the long-term health of our town centres at risk for the sake of a short-term stimulus.”

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