Twenty odd years ago, the government sponsored a scheme to convert the empty space on the floors above shops in town centres into homes. At that time, it was estimated that at least 250,000 homes could be created from these vacant areas. This would be a simple way to utilise the existing infrastructure of retail premises and, at the same time, repopulate urban areas that had become places only to go to work or to shop and during evenings and at weekends, they were often empty and desolate.
The scheme known as “Living Over The Shop” coincided with a time when old warehouse and industrial properties were being snapped up by developers and converted into loft style residential accommodation. These properties, however, tended to be around the edges of the town centres whilst the vacant upper floors of shops were often right in the centre. Both types of developments proved popular with young occupiers who were keen to buy into the new wave of urban living but neither attracted the variety of demographic groups that are needed to build areas into vibrant and sustainable communities. Continue reading →