The warnings from the Local Government Association (LGA) as new rules, which came into place yesterday, stipulate that some premises don’t have to apply for permission to change what they supply for up to two years.
It means that premises previously used as independent gift shops could be turned into payday loan companies while greengrocers could become betting shops, without the need for planning permission or public consultation.
The government said it had made the decision as it felt it would help boost economic growth and bring boarded-up shops back into use. However the LGA said that it felt it would do the opposite and instead lead to more high streets being over-run with clusters of betting shops and payday loan companies.
The association also pointed out that the new rules would also allow almost any buildings to be temporarily turned into new free schools with no public consultation or planning permission. And in many parts of the country, developers will be given free rein to convert offices into flats without planning consent.
It said that the government had to rethink its plans and instead look at rejuvenating the highstreet by encouraging the opening of businesses that residents wanted there. It said the new rules would make this method harder.
Cllr Mike Jones, Chairman of the LGA’s Environment and Housing Board, said people were “fed up” of having their local high streets filled with betting shops and payday loan companies. He warned that was a “very real danger that, in chasing a short-term boost, this panic measure could end up creating real problems” in highstreets and doing lasting damage to our town and cities.
“This could potentially drain the life from our highstreets,” he said in a report.