BBPA and UKHospitality react to government plans to give high street businesses more flexibility

UK Hospitality and the BBPA have responded to proposed changes to the planning system which would allow retailers to merge hospitality services into their businesses more easily, and vice versa, to meet consumer demand.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said that flexible retail spaces on the high street “can help hospitality businesses make good use of their available space in an environment where costs are continually increasing.”

“Flexibility is increasingly important for both businesses and customers looking to take advantage of multi-use spaces,” she said. “More than ever, commercial space is being used fluidly and the planning system should be able to encourage dynamic use of the high street.”

“Hospitality businesses are integral to communities around the country and the sector should be at the forefront when the Government considers reform of planning regulation.

“Removing burdensome red tape and restrictions can help hospitality businesses make good use of their available space in an environment where costs are continually increasing.”

Under the proposed changes, shops, financial services and hospitality services would all become merged under the same use class. This would give retailers more flexibility to provide alternative services like cafes, bars and restaurants within their grocery offer, while new businesses would be able to take over and occupy a space on the high street without needing to apply for full planning permission.

“Legislation into a single class would allow businesses to open quickly in empty units and enable them to effectively diversify to meet consumer demand, Nicholls said. “It benefits nobody if property is sat empty, so measures to encourage flexibility and ensure that space is put to good use is a positive step if the Government is committed to supporting high streets.”

Brigid Simmonds, the head of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said that the pub sector should be “front of mind when it comes to increasing planning flexibility.”

Simmonds said that, under the current proposals, greater flexibility in commercial spaces will be offered to bars and restaurants, but “leave out pubs.”

“Although merging Use Classes A1 (retail), A2 (Professional Services) and A3 (Food & Drink) would allow for more mixed uses, it would leave out pubs, meaning Use Class A4 (pubs) must be given greater flexibility too so pubs can make better use of their space.

“Many community pubs across the UK already house post offices, shops and libraries and there are no reasons why large pub premises should not provide a similar offer in town centres. This requires further discussions to ensure that whilst pubs’ unique planning statuses are retained, they have the opportunity to act as mixed-use venues too.

“The pub is the heart of the community and vital to the high street offer, so it must be front of mind when it comes to planning reform.”

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