CONTROVERSIAL Government proposals which could see unused shops become homes have been opposed by Evesham Civic Society.
Heritage chiefs spoke out after the Government revealed it intended to allow a change use from Commercial, Business and Service to residential, without the need to apply for planning permission.
This means that Evesham’s many empty shops will be able to become houses, should a planning application be lodged and approved.
Civic Voice, the national organisation of which Evesham Civic Society is a member, has objected to the changes and their opposition has been echoed by the society locally.
Society chair Gill Pawson said: “We are acutely aware of the challenges facing the high street, but will these proposals breathe new life into our high streets?
“We fear this change will prevent the proactive and positive management that our town centre desperately needs and simply enable change of use to more profitable uses, often residential, rather than enabling a greater range of uses to diversify and support our high street.”
Among the concerns raised by the society were the proposals could lead to the loss of historic character within the town’s conservation area, through inappropriate development and unsympathetic alterations.
Harmful damage to the diversity of the High Street and the creation of poor quality homes and living environments were also among the worries raised by society chiefs
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said full planning applications will no longer be required to convert unused retail premises for residential use.
It will also become easier to change the use of empty business spaces into cafes or restaurants.
The package of planning measures will also introduce a ‘fast track’ scheme for extending public buildings, such as schools, colleges and hospitals.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says converting unused commercial buildings into homes will encourage more people to live near high streets and use the areas for both work and leisure.