Council welcomes Government changes on vacant retail units

Planning and Environment
15:05, Monday, 17th June 2019

Retail units can now be converted to offices quickly and cheaply after the introduction of new Government legislation – a move which is expected to increase footfall and further regenerate town centres across North Lincolnshire.

The move is designed to attract office workers such law firms, accountancy practices, marketing companies, estate agents and other professionals to locate their businesses centrally in a bid to boost footfall and increase retail spend.

The owners of vacant buildings can go through a simplified “change of use” process introduced as part of a number of planning measures which came into force last month.

The moves come after a number of significant investments have been made in Scunthorpe town centre recently, including St John’s Market, the relocation of council offices and the new Ongo headquarters as well as the creation of the new University Campus North Lincolnshire (UCNL) on Ashby Road.

Cllr Rob Waltham MBE, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, supports the changes, saying:

“Many retails units will now be able to change their use, including to office space, without the need for a full planning application – it can be done with a simple form. This will not only save them money, it will also increase the number of people in the town centre, which will support other local businesses.

“These changes will give small business owners more flexibility to meet the ever changing trends in how people spend and use high streets. The new Government legislation supports our ambitions for North Lincolnshire’s town centres and assists the development of the local economy.

“The Government has made some bold commitments around regenerating town centres, especially cutting business rates for many smaller and independent shops. The council is also preparing a bid to secure a share of £675m being made available as part of the Future High Street fund.”

And Cllr Richard Hannigan, cabinet member for place shaping, said:

“Our towns and villages across North Lincolnshire are all very unique and this change in legislation offers them a great opportunity to grow and diversity. There are many different costs involved in running a business, therefore any financial help will make a big difference to small businesses.

“We are always on the lookout for further investment and jobs in North Lincolnshire and the changes to legislation will enable businesses to prosper and help drive sustainable growth. Growing the local economy in North Lincolnshire is a key priority for our council and we will do all we can to support this.”

Previously a change of use to a property required planning approval at a cost of £3,000. Under the new legislation, planning permission isn’t needed if it is in the same use class. Businesses can fill in the change of use section on the ‘apply for planning permission form‘ and pay a much smaller fee, or free in some cases, which is up to a 90 per cent reduction.

For example, a greengrocer’s shop could be changed to a shoe shop without the need for planning permission as these uses fall within the same ‘use class’, and a retail unit could also be changed to an office space.

Businesses in North Lincolnshire interested in changing a property from retail to office use could also be eligible for grant funding, making the change of use even more appealing.

Many of the units may well be eligible for significant business rate relief too, depending upon the size and scale of the business.

For support with your business rate queries or growth aspirations, contact the Economic Growth team at businessinfo@northlincs.gov.uk or call 01724 297000 for advice and support.