45k new homes could be built in UK's town centres

The death of the UK's high streets has been greatly exaggerated and they could, in fact, be used to deliver more than 45,000 homes.

According to a new report, there is 8 million square foot of empty spaces in towns and city centres across the country, and a new planning strategy could free up a third of that space to provide new homes.

National planning and development consultancy Turley delivered the report, entitled Making Sense of Mixed-Use Town Centres, which looked at the future of high street retail.

Vital that areas evolve

Richard Laming, Turley's senior director and head of economics, said: "Securing the future of our town centres is a critical national issue and one that is rightly getting a lot of attention.

"These centres are vital to residents, communities and businesses alike and are engines of economic growth.

"It is vital that these areas are allowed to evolve and that the planning system is match fit to support this."

Death of high street 'a myth'

In its summary, the report notes that "the much talked of 'death of the high street' is a myth and there is everything to play for".

It has developed a five-point approach to how to secure town and city centres' futures, including  seeing the bigger picture of retail, leisure and housing needs.

Paul Keywood is one of the report's co-authors and a director in Turley's planning team.

He said: "Our urban centres offer a delicate balance of uses and services that rely on each other to drive footfall and survive economically.

"We believe that for these centres to continue to succeed and serve the needs of their communities they need to embrace a mixed-use future where the balance of uses shifts from what we have traditionally seen.

"A whole-place but bespoke approach to each centre, that considers what is needed to make these places attractive and useful for communities and businesses, is essential.

Adopting this approach can deliver much-needed housing, help turn around the fortunes of places that are currently struggling and ensure successful urban centres continue to perform. Contrary to popular belief, high street retail has a crucial part to play in shaping this future."