Commercial agent Chris Lawson gives his views on plans to turn an Uckfield shop, occupied by Magnet and Saffron and Sycamore, into residential accommodation.
“Like Observer, I hope Saffron and Sycamore remain in Uckfield. However, having been letting and selling shops in Uckfield for 28 years, I have seen many changes and am not surprised that their landlord is seeking residential use.
“Many landlords who own retail property in the High Street have seen no rental growth for over 15 years plus.
“What this means is that some shops are being let today for the same rent as 15 years ago and in some cases less. Business rates in the same time period have rocketed.
“The government has relaxed the planning rules making it easier to convert commercial premises to residential whilst at the same time, encouraging residential development.
“Therefore it is not surprising that shops on the periphery of the core retail area that do not find quick occupiers should be considered for residential conversion.
“In today’s market they may be worth more in rental terms as flats than shops. Look at Uckfield High Street North. A row of four separate former shops are now residential.
“Commentators are grossly underestimating the power of the internet and its impact on all high streets.
“Yes, specialists still want to be in the high street but they tend to be barbers, nail bars, beauticians, hairdressers, clock repairers, specialist home decor, kitchen and bathroom showrooms, second-hand shops and coffee shops/catering.
“The business people who actually want to open a shop and sell goods in the traditional manner, even with their own website, are a declining minority.
“The big stores are not immune to the changing patterns of shopping. already this year we have seen the demise of British Home Stores and Austin Reed.
“Next and Marks & Spencer report a trading downturn and their stores are evolving into click and collect centres just like Argos.
“John Lewis is constructing a 50,000 sq ft distribution warehouse at Maresfield to service its home delivery customers in this part of the South East. Is this the future?
“Our High Street will continue to evolve. Twenty-five years ago we had four independent greengrocers, two fishmongers, and two shops selling CDs and videos. Today they have all gone.
At least we still have free parking.”
There’s more about the planning applicaton relating to premises occupied by Magnet and Saffron and Sycamore here: Plans to change use of Magnet and Saffron premises to residential.
The views of Uckfield News independent columnist Observer can be seen here: Uckfield needs more destination shops, says Observer.
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