Fashionista's friend, a specialist in planning law, says that the Government has recently announced plans to modernise listed building controls, which should be helpful for retailers since they may offer more scope in the future to talk constructively with entrenched authorities and avoid high costs.
The new approach to heritage controls has been trailed by the Government for a number of years but put off on several occasions. The Government's intention is to streamline the large amount of guidance and policy currently circulating for heritage sites - which includes listed buildings, buildings in conservation areas, archaeological areas and artefacts and similar things such as scheduled monuments. The new short form policy will replace some pretty bulky policies which are now over 15 years old.
The Government claims that the new policy will reflect "a more modern, integrated approach, moving beyond the outdated distinction between buildings and archaeology to embrace all of the historic environment". It claims that the policy will define the historic environment in accordance with a set of common principles proportionate to the significance of the heritage assets involved. Significance will be defined in terms of historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic interest.
If so, this will represent a departure from current practice with its separate treatment of listed buildings, conservation areas, other types of historic asset and archaeology.
The Government states in its policy that there should be a new emphasis on establishing which aspects of a heritage building or asset are the most important to conserve.
Focusing on what is important in a listed building may provide retailers with some relief about making changes in a cost-effective manner - although much will depend on how the new policies are implemented which in turn will depend on how English Heritage's "living" practice guidance evolves to put flesh on its bones.
Fashionista welcomes any move to keep a little variety on the high street and hopes that the new policy will encourage retailers to explore new options for their stores without being put off by the planning hurdles traditionally associated with listed buildings.