Tuesday February 5 2019

High street reform is vital for the franchise sector

Mathnasium's UK Director of Operations, Steve Felmingham, is urging landlords and planning departments to modernise planning policy

Steve Felmingham

STEVE FELMINGHAM | UK Director of Operations

High street reform is vital for the franchise sector

As a franchise business with major growth plans, we are urging UK commercial landlords and planning departments to review and reform their planning policies to allow for a more diversified high street. 


While we are experiencing unprecedented demand for our unique maths tutoring, high street restrictions are limiting the potential growth of the business thanks to delays with outdated planning permission and obstructive landlords. 


With the latest reports painting a dismal view of the future of the UK high street, with 40,000 jobs this year alone affected by closures, we are calling for change.


Local town planning departments up and down the country set their own planning policy, many of which are archaic and out of touch with the needs of consumers. These are undoubtedly prohibiting many businesses from establishing a high street presence. Many councils insist on a 95% retail business occupancy.  This sometimes results in buildings lying empty for months on end whilst legitimate businesses like ours are refused change of use applications.


While we are experiencing incredible success – with eight franchises already launched into UK high streets in Radlett, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Chiswick, Bramhall, Crouch End, Amersham and Clapham – growth in other parts of the country is challenging due to planning guidelines and a refusal from landlords to allow a business change of use.


Expert Peter Higginbottom, Director at London based Planning Insight, explains: “It is becoming increasingly frustrating for clients trying to obtain high street premises.  Many local planning authorities have very restrictive planning policies which seek to protect high streets but often do so through high thresholds for the retention of traditional retail uses.  As such, many planning departments and landlords are refusing applications from other diverse businesses such as Mathnasium.  This approach is often short sighted given that a number of retail units are empty for many months.   Overly restrictive planning policies and a lack of flexibility by local authorities are only going to serve to drive the high street into greater decline.  Those with flexible planning policies, will enable more diverse and successful high streets”


We know the Government is taking steps to address diversity on the high street with the update of its National Policy Planning Framework in July, but local authorities need to jump on this now.  Unless action is taken, we are in danger of at best retaining a homogenous high street, or at worst no high street at all.  By attracting a range of organisations, you encourage variety of services – this helps to drive interest, increase footfall and in turn secure further investment.

"We know the Government is taking steps to address diversity on the high street with the update of its National Policy Planning Framework in July, but local authorities need to jump on this now. "
Steve Felmingham

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