the high street in Kendal, a lovely town in the glorious Lake District. Well, actually just outside it, but there you go.

Move to high street living backed by property industry, says survey

The property scene is excited by the prospect of more high streets in the UK becoming places to live, according to a new survey.

Just a few weeks after the government announced that its Future High Streets Fund would be armed with £675m to look at repurposing “under-used retail and commercial areas” into residences, a majority of property professionals surveyed by MRI Software are positive about the prospect.

Empty shops ‘the biggest untapped resource’

Seventy-two per cent feel that turning shops into homes will give the British high street a new lease of life. With around 50,000 shops lying unused in towns and cities around the country, 66% of those surveyed see them as “the biggest untapped resource for new residential development in the UK.”

While news of big high street names like Debenhams and House of Fraser announcing closures in larger properties hits the headlines on a regular basis, many towns and cities see smaller shops closing to leave empty properties blighting the landscape.

But there now seems to be momentum behind a desire to make use of both these empty shops, or the rooms above shops still in use, as a way of getting more stock onto the market in face of a housing shortage.

City centres like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester are already being transformed by large numbers of residences in either new or repurposed buildings. Proximity to shops, bars, restaurants and gyms is fuelling a need for city centre living among millennials, and that’s something that could filter down to regenerate town centres despite their smaller populations.

“The research shows we will see a far greater number of people living in town centres, which will give a boost to retailers on the High Street while feeding other businesses such as gyms and entertainment venues,” said Dermot Briody, Executive Managing Director, Europe at MRI Software.

Majority unfazed by Brexit

The survey also shows that the industry sees a great opportunity with the revamp of the high street in the short term despite an uncertain economic outlook. It reveals that 82% of responders see the next 12 to 18 months as a lucrative period of redevelopment of mixed-use properties.

Those surveyed are also confident that Brexit will not adversely the prospect, with only 24% believing that it will hamper the UK property industry’s ability to secure funding for property redevelopment.

“The vast majority of industry players we surveyed were bullish on the outlook for the sector,” Briody added. “Even where Brexit is concerned, the positive outweighed the negative, as two-thirds maintain that even a Hard Brexit won’t hurt their ability to get funding for property development.”

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