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Planning changes to allow 'pop-up' shops and restaurants


In a bid to revive the British high street, the Government has announced a relaxation in 'change of use class' planning law that will allow shops and restaurants under 150 sq m to ‘pop up’ in existing commercial space without planning permission, in order to reduce the current amount of empty retail units.

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The new use permitted will only have a life span of two years. Whilst many fear that this could lead to an influx of betting shops and an increase in gentrification across UK towns, the limited life-span of the new uses implies that it will only work for a limited number of operators where shop fit-out costs are relatively low.

Negative impact on the high streets unlikely

In response, Mark Dodds, Head of Planning at Lambert Smith Hampton, said: “This reduction in red tape is unlikely to have the negative impact on the high street that many seem to fear. Local Authorities are claiming that they are powerless to prevent the onslaught of betting shops and pawnbrokers that are already commonplace in many towns, but these types of outlets will still require some level of planning permission and also a trading license in order to operate.

Planning freeze only for two years

“The key issue here is that the planning freeze will only be in place for two years, which would not be long enough for most retailers to recuperate their set-up costs. The capital needed to establish a new shop, from fit-outs to business rates and health and safety requirements, is likely to be substantial, and for only two years’ worth of trading, this expenditure is not worthwhile. This could lead to greater competition for the few empty units that are already fitted out, but for the many that need investment, demand is unlikely to be high.

An opportunity for large retailers to experiment

“The upside of only having two years to work with is that the larger retailers can use this as an opportunity to experiment with new formats. We would expect to see an increase in pop-up shops used as marketing tools to launch new products or venues. However, on a longer term basis, the cuts to planning bureaucracy such as this are going to do little to ease the pressure faced by the high street, particularly when high business rates and general overheads are pushing outgoings to unmanageable proportions.” 

For further information relating to this news article contact 

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Mark Dodds
National Head of Planning & Development

020 7198 2242

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