Earlier in the year the Government tried something new and exciting — the Pop-Up Consulate.
Eager to determine whether the pop-up would work in practice and wishing to demonstrate that anything can be successful, it took over office space in the National City Tower in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The first Pop-Up Consulate highlighted just what makes Britain a great place to visit and do business.
The scheduled features at the event included a speech by the British Consulate-General, a Bourbon v Scotch tasting event and a performance of the Band of the Scots Guards. Throughout the week the event showcased the best of British design and manufacturing.
For a first event using a pop-up, it was highly successful.
It is therefore no surprise that Eric Pickles, Secretary of State at the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG), is enthusiastically supporting the concept of pop-ups to rid the high street of the ‘closing-down’ notices in windows and the blight of months of unanswered and unwanted mail littering the floors of stores that, for one reason or another, have determined that enough is enough!
Pickles is quoted as saying: “We are absolutely determined to support the high street and know pop-ups are a great way to bring empty shops back to life and get new business going.”
The initial drive is to fill empty shops with budding entrepreneurs and the Government has provided £80m in start-up loans.
More importantly, it is also changing the current planning restrictions so that landlords can alter how an empty shop is used for up to two years. This is a temporary measure due to come into force on 30 May 2013. The effect will be to encourage and assist pop-up ventures such as restaurants and cafés on the high street.
Ministers believe pop-ups are a great way to get the high street moving again in town centres across the country. Their multi-million pound strategy is backing local partnerships such as ‘Portas Pilots’ and ‘Town Teams’ to breathe new life into town centres.
The programme includes the doubling of rate relief and — more importantly — mentoring from retail experts who will hold workshops to address town-centre challenges.
During the Christmas period last year, at the DCLG premises in Victoria, central London, there was a showcase pop-up store with new starter businesses moving
into the shop every 14 days.
The latest part of the jigsaw, which is being supported by secondary legislation, is to remove the restrictions in the current planning legislation.
The legislation will allow for change of use from Class A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional sources), A3 (restaurants and cafés), A4 (drinking establishments), A5 (hot-food takeaways), B1 (businesses), D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) to a flexible use within either A1, A2, A3 and B1, which is not currently allowed.
Flexibility appears to be the central theme of these proposals; if the premises doesn’t work as a restaurant within the two years they could change, for example, to a deli. Several different changes can be made without application. However, the planning authority must be advised of the changes and, in any event, permission will be required for a change of use at the end of the two-year pilot period.
The ‘Town Team toolkit’ and further information is available from the Pop Up Britain website.
One problem with a change to a restaurant or other premises proposing to sell alcohol may come from areas that have a cumulative impact policy in place.
Thorough research, therefore, to support any proposal that includes the sale of alcohol should include discussions with the police and licensing authorities. This is before any commitment is made to make sure that the proposals will allow the grant of a premises licence, which clearly would be necessary for the operation of the premises suggested.
In particular for restaurants and delicatessens, if they plan to sell alcohol for consumption on or off the premises, they will require a premises licence.
Let's hope licensing authorities embrace the Government’s spirit of flexibility in supporting new high-street businesses.