I am writing in response to Mitchell Labiak’s recent article about the possible merger of business class uses and the impact this might have on the high street (14.06.19).

Flats above shops

Now few of us seem to be able to go out without a bottle of water in hand or making a trip to a coffee shop every hour, we can expect many existing A1 tenants to take advantage of their customers’ thirst by adding cafés to their shops, if legislation is passed merging business classes.

We can also expect many food outlets to spring up in previously vacant A1 space.

Has anyone spared a thought for the homeowners in properties above these shops when they are transformed into cafés/restaurants?

There are plenty of reasons to buy residential property above shops: one usually gets more space for one’s money; the location is generally good in terms of facilities and transport links; and it can make living in a desirable location more affordable.

In the past, many people would have bought a flat above a shop such as a pharmacy, newsagent or clothes shop safe in the knowledge that the use class would be highly unlikely to change because councils were aware of the importance of balance in any parade of shops. Councils now appear to be happy to dilute the tenant mix in an effort to avoid having vacant retail space, but at what cost to the residents above?

Most people would not consider living above a food outlet of any kind for various reasons: the smell from the food; the noise nuisance of customers and extractor fans; the fire hazard; and the associated increase in property insurance along with the difficulty/impossibility of getting a mortgage on the place.

Once food outlets become an option for any business below a residential property, its appeal as a place to live will diminish and, consequently, so will its value.

The outcome is likely to be that more and more residential properties above shops will be bought by cash investors for rental purposes, which will mean less investment in their upkeep bringing values down further.

We should allow our parades of shops to evolve with the encouragement, support and protection of our local councils without losing the structure of the street to the detriment of both shoppers and residents above.

Clare Hill, marketing manager, Colman Architects