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A visit to unused spaces on the first floor of buildings on The High Street was a revelation.

One space that we viewed had been a retail outlet, but it could no longer be used; literally. The value of premises had been destroyed by removing infrastructure, intentionally making the space unusable.

Why? The business rates charged precluded a profitable business, so the retailer had to move elsewhere. Without rental income, usable spaces are unviable: they incur costs. Costs are reduced when the premises cannot be used. The business decision is simple: if a space cannot general rental income because of market conditions, it can be cheaper to make the space unusable.

While this makes financial sense to individual owners, it is bewildering when the High Street is viewed as a whole, potentially viable, system. The seemingly perverse decision to pay for infrastructure to be removed is an unintended consequence of the how business rates and rentals operate. Unfortunately, this is not something we can change; it is outside of the scope of the project.

Creative, valuable usage scenarios are needed to inspire investment as part of an overall regeneration strategy. We need to reverse the downward spiral; an economic trajectory that is ripping the heart out of our towns and cities.

Above Two Guys from Brussels – an ambitious and unique offer of Belgian beer, chocolate and a wide range of coffees – the situation is very different. The spaces there were in need of investment, but in this case the Two Guys have plans.

 

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Photo: Sven, Christophe and Lena: Engineers from Cologne talking about windows and building technology with Emlyn.

Below is a link to a folder containing UK building regulations.

[google-drive-folder id=”0B16r4Rvs9qVZSGp5UFV0N0p4Vm8″ title=”Building Regulations”]

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