The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced plans to revive high streets by making it easier to turn vacant shops into houses in a speech yesterday.
Such a move might be a welcome boon to Southport with the once renowned Victorian boulevard of Lord Street now little more than a row of vacant buildings.
In his speech, designed to echo that of Franklin D Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, Mr Johnson announced that under proposed legislation, from September developers will be able to convert shops to homes without the need to submit a planning application.
MPs believe that the changes will help to revitalise town centres and reduce the number of vacant buildings while helping to resolve the lack of housing
“Build, build, build”
Mr Johnson said that the government would “build, build, build” its way out of the predicted economic crisis so that the UK’s economy would come out of the coronavirus crisis better and stronger than it was before.
The Prime Minister expanded on the announcement to say that the government will invest £5 billion on improving roads, rail, schools, and high streets across the country.
Critics of the planned shake up claim the Prime Minister’s proposals will result in a small number of substandard homes and instead called for more funding for housing associations and councils.
For those who live in Southport, a change from seeing boarded up shops may be welcome but it does not resolve the overall problem for those who own and run shops in Southport town centre, that of the threat from online retailers who can sell merchandise cheaply without the need for expensive premises.
For Southport to thrive, a reduction in business rates and a greater amount of free parking might do more to steady the decline.