How practical is it to turn shops into homes?

Empty shops in Ipswich town centre.
There are proposals to perhaps turn some of these premises into

Empty shops in Ipswich town centre. There are proposals to perhaps turn some of these premises into living accommodation. Empty shops in The Buttermarket. - Credit: Archant

The government is once again talking about turning shops into homes.

At first sight it might sound like a good idea – I suspect it is another case of Eric Pickles, or in this case his junior ministers, opening their mouths without engaging their brains!

Shops and houses are different things. It might be possible to convert a little village shop in the countryside into a bijou little cottage – but any thought of turning the former Early Learning Centre in the Buttermarket or Baldwins store in Upper Brook Street into houses is entire fatuous!

The reason they aren’t currently occupied as shops is that no businesses are prepared to pay the level of rent demanded (although in fairness Baldwins is due to converted into a budget cosmetics shop).

The owners would get far, far less if they allowed these town centre shops to be converted into homes!

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What is a far more realistic, and better idea, would be to resurrect the idea of encouraging landlords and business owners to convert rooms above their shops into flats.

There’s certainly a case for encouraging developers like those hoping to resurrect the Civic Centre site to look at including homes in any proposals to breathe new life into an area that is currently a wasteland.

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But with thousands of town centre flats sitting empty in the Waterfront area the last thing the town needs is a half-baked idea to turn shops into more unwanted units.

Rather than backing the idea, Ben Gummer would be better advised to take a much blunter message back to Mr Pickles’ Department of Silly Ideas: You Cannot be Serious!

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