The Leader of Buckinghamshire Council says government changes are threatening Amersham High Street.
Councillor Martin Tett recently wrote to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), urging the government to pause proposed changes to planning rules due to come in on August 1.
The proposed new rules will effectively give developers the green light to automatically convert retail or commercial space along prime high streets into residential use without needing planning permission.
In a statement, the council used Amersham High Street as an example of the threat, due to the loss of key large retail units currently used by Waterstones and Superdrug.
They explained: “There are no suitable replacement local units and it is likely that both stores will leave the town. The current presence of these brands is pivotal to other smaller and independent shops opening in the town.”
Cllr Tett added: “Giving automatic rights to convert prime retail space into residential space removes any local power for communities or councils to take measures to protect and invigorate our main high streets. National rules will squash our local voices.
“We simply should not take a ‘one size fits all’ national approach to this. This proposed change risks putting power completely in the hands of developers and leaves local communities and local authorities powerless to shape the future of prime high streets in our towns and villages.
“Each town and each high street have their own dynamic, their own evolving retail footprint and its own place at the heart of our communities – high streets are part of the hyper local economy of a town or a village.”
“Without the vital sanity check and safety net coming from local authorities, it could be open season for developers to break up and fragment key high street frontages and change the balance of our town centres.”
To read cllr Tett’s full statement, go to buckinghamshire.gov.uk/news/buckinghamshire-council-speaks-out-to-defend-local-high-streets/
Picture credit HOSS Photography