Business Lobby Calls for Vacant Shops to be Turned into Flats

January 23, 2019

A prominent business lobby in Scotland has called for shop units that have been unoccupied for long periods of time to be turned into residential flats.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) included the idea with a series of suggestions it has put forward as ways to potentially revitalise town centres across Scotland.

The organisation has said it wants to see fresh thinking and the Scottish government providing funding for initiatives that could contribute significantly towards a “high street renaissance” in the coming years.

High street retailers throughout the UK have been struggling to stay in business for a variety of reasons in recent years and a growing number of shopping centres in Scotland are seeing their units go unoccupied.

In recent days it emerged that a shopping centre in Kirkcaldy, Fife, was for sale at a price of just £1, with a majority of its retail units being left empty.

As well as potentially benefiting town centre businesses, any reusing of empty shops for residential purposes could also make a notable contribution towards addressing housing shortages, which the charity group Shelter reported in November now sees a household made homeless somewhere in Scotland every 18 minutes.

“The future of many Scottish high streets depends upon finding new uses for long-empty retail properties,” said Andrew McRae, FSB Scotland’s policy chair.

“The challenge is to make our town centres not just about shopping but also attractive places for working, living and socialising. That might mean turning an empty bank into a restaurant, a former supermarket into office space, or a long vacant shop unit into a flat.”

Mr McRae also called for strong collaboration between public bodies and private companies in future to help give a boost to Scotland’s town centres and high streets that are in need of rejuvenation.

The FSB spokesperson also said he wants to see the government “come down hard” on public bodies and councils that make a negative contribution to footfall on their own local high streets by closing down their town centre offices.

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