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"Rent a flat above a shop," sang Jarvis Cocker (whose mother Christine Connolly lost by one vote as a Conservative council candidate in Bassetlaw.)

A sensible change in planning rules should mean that more have the chance to follow Jarvis's advice. Whether it will mean more will be like Common People is another matter. When I rented a flat in St John's Wood High Street is was pretty expensive and was above a smart French restaurant.

Under new permitted development rights, from October 1st, up to two flats will be allowed to be created in office or storage space. Before it was just one without gaining planning permission. This is not about spending money building new homes – but allowing existing building to be put to more effective use.

The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:

“These are common sense planning reforms that will deliver more affordable homes in areas where there are good transport links whilst ensuring better use of existing developed land.

“Cutting this red tape should be a shot in the arm for the high street increasing footfall and providing a boost to regeneration.

Planning Minister Greg Clark added:

“The Government is determined to make the very best use of existing buildings to provide more homes as quickly and simply as possible.

“Ensuring unused space above shops can be used in a better way is one of the many changes the Government has introduced to streamline the planning system and to cut unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Apart from helping to alleviate the housing shortage, this will encourage shop keepers to take advantage of an extra source of revenue – which might well be crucial in encouraging them to keep going rather than give up, leaving further empty shops.

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