High street shops could become homes in plan to save Black Country town centres

Declining town centres could be brought back to life by converting empty shops into homes, council bosses predict.

Dudley High Street
Dudley High Street

Deserted shops should be converted into homes in an effort to revitalise businesses and boost the night-time economy in Dudley.

It comes as surveys show a continuing fall in shoppers spending their money in Dudley’s traditional retail areas, according to the council.

Councillor Anne Millward said the idea could become a model for the whole country.

She said: “I think we have a God-given opportunity to revitalise our high street with the conversion of shops into residential properties which will also relieve the growing pressure on our green belt.”

Using the example of Stavanger in Norway, she said: “Because there are a lot of people living in the city and town centres it means businesses are regenerating because people need the shops and they need the nightlife economy.

“There is such a lot that can be done and I do believe that Dudley could lead the way with this nationally.”

Her remarks came as a council report into the cost of empty shops estimated the borough will lose £3.8 million in business rates this year.

In addition, 236 retail properties in Dudley are classed as unoccupied and qualify for rate relief for the first three months, during which they pay no rates.

Council officers also highlighted the impact of Covid with Brierley Hill seeing a reduction in the number of shoppers of 26 percent and 30 percent in Dudley during September.

Saying the impact of Covid won’t go away after the pandemic ends, Councillor Chris Barnett said town centre plans have to change.

He added: “It’s becoming very apparent that things are never going to get back to how they were.

“And with Covid-19 in particular, whatever the normal is after all of this isn’t going to be the normal that was before.”

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