back to article My HOUSE used to be a PUB: How to save the UK high street

Interesting news on the Blighty high street as Tesco continues to lose market share: now it has fallen behind Amazon as the retailer of choice for the sort of shiny-shiny we buy each other for Crimbo. Fruit and vegetables on display on the shelves of a supermarket Roomy fridge, isn't it? I think we'll put the kids' room here …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Holmes

    Parking

    And parking. I've made a real effort to use town centre shops but the ball-ache of parking, paying through the nose and finding that the shops don't "keep everything in stock these days" drives me back online.

    Scrape off the double yellow lines, enforce a mandatory 20mph speed limit in the town centre and let's see what happens.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re:20 mph in town

      So you want cars in town to run 30% faster?

      you have my vote :-)

    2. Joe 48

      Doing my bit

      I've just purchased a Pub and turned it into a house.

      However, the Pub I purchased was in a lovely remote location in a small village. Unsure how this will help the high street, but I've got a stunning house!! Plus they had a another pub in the village so I still have a watering hole.

      Win win!

      1. rh587 Silver badge

        Re: Doing my bit

        The pub (a Free House) in our local village closed, primarily because the owners had managed to hack off pretty much everyone within a 5 mile radius, despite doing superb food. They desperately tried to get planning permission to convert to residential but were refused. After about 5 years it reopened, with the wildly successful young bartender from the pub in the next village behind the bar. He created a great atmosphere and people flooded in.

        After 6 months his place was taken by the old couple - turns out he hadn't taken it over, they'd just paid him a pretty penny to "consult" for 6 months and get it running into a going concern for them.

        Having struggled on for 12 months they're now closing down. Again. Because she's a racist, homophobic harpie and he has the personality of a sponge They were idiots not to sell it 12 months ago as a profitable going concern. Instead they've taken a resurrected pub and run it into the ground.

        I am eternally grateful to the planners for refusing them planning permission to convert the property. Once that stops being a pub and becomes a house it will never go back. But if that couple finally get a clue and flock off, we might actually get a pub worth drinking in. Were it not for the planners, the village would be solely comprised of houses and the church. At least we still have a pub. On and Off.

        The village shop has been converted - because there's a big Tesco barely 2 miles away, so that was never going to remain sustainable. But there's no other pub - just that one.

        It's sustainable and there's a market and demand for it - we would support it, except the owners are not cut out for the pub trade. Or indeed any sort of customer-facing retail position anywhere.

        1. Joe 48

          Re: Doing my bit

          Had it been the only pub in the village I'd have never purchased it. Not cutting off my nose to spite my face!

          Hope your pub gets resurrected again soon.

  2. EddieD

    Already happening

    A lot of the small shops that adorned the streets about half a mile from the center of Edinburgh have been converted into small flats

    http://tinyurl.com/mzt8s6b

    Follow along that street and see what's happened. 30 years ago they were all shops, then came the department stores, and no-one spoke up them. And now Amazon has come along, and no-one wants to speak up for the department stores.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Already happening

      Dairy road was.. a bit "rowdy".

      Right now it has improved a lot, and tearing down the distillery and making flats has improved the zone a lot.

      I have some friends living there and it is very nice.

      Also, if you go a bit towrds the coop and not in front of the cemetery, most shops are still open.

    2. ravenviz
      Facepalm

      Re: Already happening

      Remaining shops:

      Corner coffee shop & takeaway; Chinese takeaway (advertising justeat.co.uk); Chinese travel shop; grocery store specialising in Asian food; hairdressers; photography shop (that does visa and passport photos); pet supplies shop that sells windows (or a window shop that sells pet supplies); Chinese restaurant; estate agents; another takeaway; pub; newsagents; betting shop; kebab shop; another hairdressers.

      And a giant Lidl on the other side of the road where you can't get:

      - hot food

      - a haircut

      - a betting receipt

      - your photo taken

      - a paper

      - drunk

  3. Peter Richardson

    With you on this

    The thought also occurred to me a few years ago. The main obstruction to development and renaissance of town centres appears to be local councils. They are generally full of ancient career councillors who know very little except how to play local politics to keep themselves in their cushy job.

    My own local council seems to think spending £1-2m quid every few years on laying a new surface on the high street will solve the problem. Strangely, it never does. Funnily enough, ridiculous parking charges don't help either.

    They have now resorted to knocking down particularly unpopular or useless buildings to try and stimulate new development, only to find the developers lose interest very quickly when it becomes clear nobody will occupy the new shops, restaurants and other half baked ideas the council has, all firmly rooted in the past.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With you on this

      Having worked for a local council the main problem they seem to have is the crap funding they receive from Government, forcing them to shut stuff like libraries and museums and look at a myriad other routes to pay for the stuff they are expected to provide (parking fees, other fines, business rates), it is one of the only times in my career I have been asked to perform miracles with nothing in an IT department.

      I've since left the UK and I'm working in the Netherlands, my council tax here?, about 200 euros a year, the Government give them the rest.

      Pretty much all the grief we experience in the UK begins and ends in Westminster, and I include a lot of EU regulation in that as well, when you read what the regulations (which in every case we agree to) say most of the time, the actual execution bears no resemblance to the original intent once Whitehall have got their mitts on it and gold plated it into something ridiculous.

      1. Ilmarinen

        Re: With you on this

        AC said: "the Government give them the rest" to which I replied:

        "the Government" can only do this by taking other peoples (aka "taxpayers") money - it has none of its own.

        Also, I rather suspect that libraries & museums are a small part of what they spend. More than 50% of my local council spend is paid out in benefits.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: With you on this

          "the Government" can only do this by taking other peoples (aka "taxpayers") money - it has none of its own.

          So you are suggesting Council Tax, and all the other fees are not paid by the "tax payer"?

          All this is doing is shunting the same tax further down the line, benefits included.

          Helps our rulers boast how much lower income tax is in the UK compared to our neighbors.

          1. Richard 81

            Re: With you on this

            Just as long as that tax doesn't come from wages/salaries. Those are taxed enough as it is, thank you very much.

            1. fruitoftheloon

              @Richard 81 Re: With you on this

              Richard,

              where else can the tax come from, golden pixie dust falling from the sky?

              [IHT] excluded.

              J

      2. Riku

        Re: With you on this

        That (EU regulation), is because UK gummint, (both local and national) use it as a revenue generating exercise. By interpreting EU directives rather more rigidly than most other members, it's easier to penalise, criminalise and fine just about anyone for anything. UK councils are so desperate for cash, being shortchanged by the Westminster control-freak, regulations are leveraged as fee-and-fine-paying goldmines.

        All the while the local politicos get to blame ye olde EU whipping boy and be all slopey-shouldered. That's how the Brits end up saying "The French don't have to do this!", because the French (or anyone else), usually enacted it within their local framework.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: With you on this

      Is your local council Blackpool, by any chance? That sounds very familiar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: With you on this

        No further South, but they are all in pretty much the same boat, most of them have overspends in millions they will find pretty much impossible to rectify and provide the service they are supposed to.

        Remember going to a meeting with a group of other councils and it was doom and gloom from everyone, one was having a reduction of 2 thirds of it's staff forced on it, and if you want to see their permanent staff cry bitter tears just ask when they last had a pay rise, from anyone outside all you hear is "course the head of the Council is paid stupid money", that may or may not be true but it's certainly not true for most of their staff.

        Was so glad to quit.

        1. FlatSpot
          Flame

          Re: With you on this

          Interesting point, however on the flip side I'm currently dealing with a council regarding a persistent and high level of traffic collisions on a single 30m stretch of road. (Using DfT numbers over £300k worth of cost so far, police, damage, ambulances etc)

          You would think it would be pretty easy to resolve but nope, they turned up with a gaggle of 4x "managers", probably in the region of £100k a year in wages alone, one who looked after kerbstones, one who looked after minor rated accidents and another who looked after serious rated accidents and some other hanger-on who fancied a day out as the weather was good.

          They claimed there was no money, and couldn't care less anyway as its not their concern the levels of collisions regardless of the damage to the surrounding area, plus as most road works are contracted out they couldn't do much anyway. Still waiting 12mths later for a couple of bloody signs.

          There is a tremendous amount of dead wood in councils, you don't need a 1-2-1 match of managers to do-ers and having worked in councils before, about 20% of the staff do 80% of the work. If they have worked there for several years then they have normally carved out a nice little number involving doing little except eating cake and drinking tea.

          Privatise the lot of them and have performance related pay, measured on reducing the number of accidents in their area.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: With you on this

            "Privatise the lot of them" - Yeah because that works out sooo well everywhere else it's been tried with public services, will get the same 4 managers but they will be on 100k each and your council tax will increase 4 fold because the first duty is to the shareholders

            1. Squander Two

              Re: With you on this

              > "Privatise the lot of them" - Yeah because that works out sooo well everywhere else it's been tried with public services

              Would you rather buy a mobile phone made by Apple or the Post Office?

              1. Frankee Llonnygog

                Re: Would you rather buy a mobile phone made by Apple or the Post Office?

                Bakelite model with a rotary dial? Yes!

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: With you on this

                Apple make hideously overpriced electronic gadget's, the Royal Mail besides delivering the post actually sell a bewildering range of other products and services, so I fail to see your point, I'm sure Royal Mail has somewhere that will sell you a smartphone but they aren't in the business of doing R&D and manufacturing.

              3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

                Re: With you on this

                "Would you rather buy a mobile phone made by Apple or the Post Office?"

                Wow, a real blast from the past - when was the GPO split?

              4. Equitas

                Re: With you on this

                Neither, thank you!

              5. Aitor 1 Silver badge

                Re: With you on this

                Would you rather pay for cancer treatment in the US or the UK? In the UK NHS will pay it..

          2. Nigel 11

            Re: With you on this

            There is a tremendous amount of dead wood in councils, you don't need a 1-2-1 match of managers to do-ers and having worked in councils before, about 20% of the staff do 80% of the work.

            Just like IT in most larger companies then.

            No, I take it back. The councils are models of efficiency, compared to the programmer / manager work ratio!

          3. Riku

            Re: With you on this

            Then they'd just ban cars and you'd have a perfect-zero accident rate1

    3. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: With you on this

      "My own local council seems to think spending £1-2m quid every few years on laying a new surface on the high street will solve the problem."

      Similar story here - our council spent a vast sum resurfacing the town's large Pay & Display. Two months later, 40% of that tarmac was torn up by the developers who had bought a chunk of it to build fairly crap infill housing.

      As part of the town's redevelopment they also sold a chunk to a new supermarket who have arrived (who won't go anywhere without controlling their own parking). That parking is now ANPRd for customers only. Unlike a different local town (with a more competent council and thriving high street) where the supermarket car park is Pay and Display (with refund on your ticket in store for customers), which means people can use it as general parking if they want. In our town however, it's for the store only, even though it's right next to the high street - they don't want you popping across to the local greengrocer. Barstewards (that's malicious barstewards in the supermarket, incompetent barstewards in the council).

      In this respect our planners failed utterly (compared with their sensible refusal to have our pub converted), allowing the superstore and developers to walk all over them without stipulating a stringent set of conditions like the next town along did (and which has embraced the presence of a supermarket but in a manner that is friendly to the town centre).

    4. TRT Silver badge

      Re: With you on this

      Do you live in Watford as well, then?

  4. msknight Silver badge

    A missed opportunity

    Some carriers don't have what the Post Office has ... namely a high street presence. I believe there is an opportunity for "shops" that represent various couriers and customers can drop off parcels and possibly collect as well, where it is impractical to either have things sent to work, or take yet another day off work for a courier to turn up at home.

    Right now, I've got to organise a parcel to Germany, which Parcel Farce will want three digits of notes for. However, to deal with the other guys, they're going ot have to pick up from premises, and that could get awkward with my employer ... potentially.

    One "shop" can actually represent multiple couriers. Split costs, and all that. Do the paperwork on-line even and just drop it off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A missed opportunity

      On the other hand near us John Lewis has just bought up two local shops next door to a Waitrose branch, has closed then down and, we believe is turning them into a click'n'collect pickup location. They also bought up and closed the filling station on the other side, closed it and converted it into extra carparking space - and they added the extra touch of appearing to only apply for planning permission after they'd started to demolish the site. Often wonder what local reaction would have been if it was Tesco and not John Lewis doing this!

      1. msknight Silver badge

        Re: A missed opportunity

        I think they need to go beyond this; refrigerated click'n'colect. Would take a "manned" store to pull off something like this. Not even need to visit the supermarket and also no need to mess around with delivery slots and staying at home.

        Regards the John Lewis/Tesco argument ... pass. It will cost them a chunk of money either way, and even in my local village, one of two pubs got messy with planning permission and the council got its way in the end, so people/organisations engaging in building works and paying no heed to planning laws/permission doesn't automatically mean they won't be forced to rebuild what they destroyed, if the decision goes that way.

        1. monkeyfish

          Re: A missed opportunity

          They already exist. Last time I had to return something to Amazon I took it to a local newsagent. They charged me a small fee to return it for me, and I got the reassurance that having given it to them, it was 'returned' to Amazon already (i.e. I was not responsible for any shipping loss/damage). Since then the local co-op has started doing it too.

          1. Ol'Peculier

            Re: A missed opportunity

            Interesting, I had to return a tripod to Amazon (which came packed diagonally in a huge box) and didn't have to pay anything to the newsagent I dropped it off at.

            I also see that one of the drop locker services is now letting you put stuff into their system for collection by a courier too.

            1. petboy

              Re: A missed opportunity

              Yes, there is also the "InPost" company now who have parcel lockers, totally automated. I needed to post a parcel at 2130 on a Sunday. Went to their site, printed off the label, nipped up the road to the local set of lockers and popped it in. Arrived first thing Tuesday morning without any hassle for me at all.

        2. Why Not?

          Re: A missed opportunity

          The problem here is that the supermarket disregarding planning permission just points out that they are creating jobs and suddenly planning problems seem to go away.

    2. spib.burfank

      Re: A missed opportunity

      " I believe there is an opportunity for "shops" that represent various couriers and customers can drop off parcels and possibly collect as well"

      You mean like Collect+? http://www.collectplus.co.uk

      There's one in my corner shop, another in a nearby petrol station shop. Amazon use them for both deliveries and pickup.

      1. an it guy

        Re: A missed opportunity

        hear hear. collect plus has been very handy as well. Not sure about International delivery though having just checked their site.

        on the plus side, their site does load very quickly

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A missed opportunity

        "Amazon use them for both deliveries and pickup."

        I was in Argos yesterday for the first time in a long time and one of the collection points is liveried with a big Ebay logo. The Ebay collection point also has a till, scanner and card reader so I assume you can send stuff back there too, or maybe that was just their own "returns" facility. I didn't ask :)

    3. fruitoftheloon

      Re: A missed opportunity

      Msknight,

      there are quite a few orgs that do that, here [in Devon], I can drop a parcel off at my local Co-op etc, they scan the printed [by me] barcode with their 'PayPoint' thingy [I think], then print you a receipt, all very quick and well organised, I don't recall the parcel company that has the gig tho...

      Google is your friend here...

      J

    4. Squander Two

      Re: A missed opportunity

      Good to see people trying to plug that particular gap in the market. However, since the Royal Mail is now privatised, and the Royal Mail and Post Office Counters are supposedly separate entities, and the Royal Mail have lost their legally enforced monopoly status (due to persistently awful service), what I would like to see is the Post Office offering us some other choices. Go in with a parcel, have it weighed, have the person behind the counter tell you the different couriers' prices and options.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All towns these days have exactly the same shops (mostly owned by the same group, so there's no real competition) and the only thing you can buy in them is overpriced women's clothing. There's no good reason to try save them. Bring in the bulldozers and put up some houses.

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Bring in the bulldozers and put up some houses.

      Why the bulldozers? They shell of the building is similar whether it's for a house or a shop.

      Remodel the inside and a little on the outside and you've got a house. Knocking them down is a huge waste of resources.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Or perhaps bring in the bulldozers and create a park/piazza. Give residents somewhere nice to go and socialise and that encourages exercise and helps foster community spirit. Many town centres are just shopping centres so have limited appeal. Turning the shops into houses doesn't add much appeal (or at least only to a handful). I've been saying for a while now that bricks and mortar shopping should be allowed to die back but I think there's an opportunity in a lot of cases for a complete re-think of what a town centre should be.

  6. returnmyjedi

    There would need to be a complete change in planning laws of course. A similar problem faces a village near me that has two pubs, one of which has stood empty for years as they're isn't the population to keep it open. Many have tried to buy it to turn into a house but the parish council refuse to permit a change of usage as they are worried it would change the character of the village. So the character of the village remains as "derelict".

    1. monkeyfish

      Interesting, two of our dead pups have since turned into a cafe/b&b and a nursery. Maybe this needs a more top-down approach, since the local laws vary considerably.

      1. Richard 120

        Impressive

        I'm amazed they managed to do that with a pair of canine carcasses.

        I guess it must be technical wizardry like the kind used in doctor who & cinderella (tardis & pumpkin coach respectively)

        1. Alfred

          Re: Impressive

          It did give me paws, barking mad as it seemed.

        2. fruitoftheloon

          @Richard 120 Re: Impressive

          Me too, that is what I call recycling...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Stuff the Parish Council, they are small fry, get a specialist and take it to appeal and keep going. If you can prove its not sustainable as a pub you will have a strong case.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A couple of years ago our local MP was trying to get a campaign going to save a local pub from being knocked down and converted into a petrol station and 24 hour store. I'm sure a beautiful black and white country pub springs to mind but in reality it was a run of the mill housing estate type place with no particular character.

      I decided to do a quick bit of digging. Seems this pub had gone bust about 5 years ago. It stood empty for a year and was bought by someone who sunk their life savings into it only for it to fail again. When the MP got on the case it had been standing empty for two years.

      I wrote to him asking why he was trying to save the place, after all it had stood empty for two years and gone bust twice, clearly no one really wanted it. I suggested that the local residents probably didn't want a petrol station but that it was probably preferable to a closed pub.

      The MP wrote back a very terse not telling me that the council have a community diversity manager (or some such nonsense) and he should be doing his job to protect the pub. Felt to me like between the council and the MP you could only build what they wanted you to build and the rulings were really quite arbitrary.

  7. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

    A few minor changes in law are in order here

    As things stand, parking fines and soon some other minor traffic fines will go straight to local councils when someone is fined. I would argue that this is putting temptation in the way of organisations which have already demonstrated that they will exploit such situations. So, remit all fines directly to central government, and let us see how local councils manage then.

    In theory, as the parking restrictions were revenue-neutral this ought to have no effect.

    In practice, this will force councils to cease relying on fines as revenue, and to find new ways to extract money from people. Motorists would still make a fine target; simply build a number of very big multi-storey car parks in and around city centres, and hey presto the cash cow can still be milked fairly easily, and at the same time people have an opportunity to go shopping back in city centres.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A few minor changes in law are in order here

      "Motorists would still make a fine target; simply build a number of very big multi-storey car parks in and around city centres, and hey presto the cash cow can still be milked fairly easily, "

      I can't think why you haven't noticed, but this is the sort of shit headed thinking that has pervaded local government for many decades. And then the same lard-arse councillors who think that making the traffic lights out of sequence, and car parking expensive is a good idea, well, they are now the ones that whine that nobody uses their town centres.

    2. JC_

      Re: A few minor changes in law are in order here

      In theory, as the parking restrictions were revenue-neutral this ought to have no effect.

      What does making parking restrictions "revenue neutral" actually mean? Is it fines = cost of enforcement? Or do you take into account the opportunity cost caused by some wanker double-parking and blocking the way for all other road-users, or worse, causing accidents?

      I would argue that it would be best to put the "temptation" to work and have the free-market solve the problem - license parking wardens, put them on commission and have them ticket as much as they're able to.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A few minor changes in law are in order here

        What does making parking restrictions "revenue neutral" actually mean?"

        Parking fees + parking fines = parking costs/maintenance + cost of enforcement is the theory.

        1. JC_

          Re: A few minor changes in law are in order here

          Parking fees + parking fines = parking costs/maintenance + cost of enforcement is the theory.

          But that ignores all the other costs and externalities, so it's hardly neutral.

          If I park in the disabled bay and therefore deny it to a disabled person, what fine should I get? Just the few quid that I would have paid to park in a legitimate bay?

          The fact is that most parking offenses are selfish behaviour that impose a small cost on a lot of other people; drivers who get ticketed whine loudly because they feel the fine acutely, but they don't see the costs and inconvenience they've caused.

    3. fruitoftheloon

      Re: A few minor changes in law are in order here

      Dr Dan,

      that is way too sensible, hence back in the real world...

      J

  8. Simon Harris Silver badge

    Tesco ...has fallen behind Amazon ... for the ... shiny-shiny we buy each other for Crimbo.

    it would never have occurred to me to buy shiny-shiny stuff at Tesco (except maybe chocolate coins).

    Bacon maybe, but CDs and tech stuff, no.

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Tesco ...has fallen behind Amazon ... for the ... shiny-shiny we buy each other for Crimbo.

      Actually if you have a large Tesco/Asda/etc nearby they can be very convenient, and even cheaper than online at times. I often nip to the nearest big Tesco for a cable, or a USB stick, or a TV bracket. It's cheap enough and I have it in my hands instantly.

  9. Cosmo

    Pubs already being converted

    Where I live, a big chunk of the old-man's boozers have been shut and converted into either flats, Co-Ops or Spars.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pubs already being converted

      Ditto. Many pubs being converted to flats round my way.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Pubs already being converted

      "old-man's boozers have been shut and converted into either flats, Co-Ops or Spars."

      I noticed a few years ago in Middlesbrorough that a church was now MoneyShop/cheque cashing/loan operation. A little ironic I thought at the time.

  10. Ketlan

    Planning conundrum

    'In other words, abolish much of the planning permission system and allow people to convert, either way as they see fit'

    Absolutely not. Most planning law is there to protect towns and villages from the ravages of property developers who, were it not for those laws, would be building eyesores all over the damn place.As a former councillor and chair of planning committee, I agree that planning laws need to be changed as society changes - they need to be flexible but they will still be needed to protect the urban landscape from stupidity and greed.

    As far as housing is concerned, many local authorities already allow shops to let out upper floors but obviously only if there is a separate entrance from that of the shop itself. A few local authorities even go as far as cutting business rates for the shop owner if they let to tenants. One of the biggest problems with flats above shops is what to do with the tenants if a shop closes or changes hands. You can't just tell the tenant they have to move out because tenants have legal protections - or would you propose removing those, too?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Planning conundrum

      "protect the urban landscape from stupidity and greed"

      Here's how that played out near me.

      1) Convert inner city factories to either offices or flats. Urban regeneration. Brown envelopes all round.

      2) *One* of the residents complains about the niose from a music venue that had been there since before the conversion.

      3) After doing a noise assesment, the council deems the volume to be too loud (despite having *supposedly* done a similar noise assesment before planning permission was granted)

      4) Music venue has a noise abaitment order aplied to it, effictivley shutting it down until after a referbishment

      If people were doing their jobs properly, that situation should never have hapened.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Planning conundrum

      But... selling a property with existing tenants makes it a more valuable proposition. The new buyer has an instant revenue stream and doesn't have to waste time and money getting tenants in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Planning conundrum

      "Absolutely not. Most planning law is there to protect towns and villages from the ravages of property developers who, were it not for those laws, would be building eyesores all over the damn place."

      Actually they wouldn't. One of the central reasons for over-development is the severely restricted supply of development land CAUSED by planning policy. And despite national and local government being in such a hurry to control developers "for the good of one and all", you have to ask why with this level of absolute control they've made such a repeated and routine fuck up of planning?

      Take new build residential. In a good year we might build 160,000 new dwellings, but we've got a backlog caused by immigration and population growth that means we need to build an average of 250,000 a year for the next decade (based on DCLG household formation projections). Obviously that's distributed, but in context that's like building seven large towns in their entirety each and every year for a decade. Where's the planning policy to permit that?

      It takes an age to get planning permission, it involves both brown bag and official bribes ("planning gain"), and even then virtually no council wants to build 10% more houses in its area. If the state chooses to run an open door immigration policy, then the state needs to make sure that there's the facilities and housing for them. Yet our roads and rail systems are sclerotic. Our health and education systems at maximum capacity. And we're simply not building enough houses, which leads to over-crowding, immobility of labour, and the nonsensical property prices that are normal in the UK, along with vast regional differences.

      Looked at holistically, UK planning policy and practice is simply about defending vested interest and resisting change. That's probably what many locals would actually want, but how will the UK then meet current and future housing needs?

    4. Ilmarinen
      Go

      Re: Planning conundrum

      Absolutely Yes !

      IIRC, the planning system is one of the last vestiges of the post-war Socialist nationalization program. The government nationalized your right to develop your own property as you saw fit and imposed a planning system that would allocate permissions as needed in the brave new world. Over time, this mutated into a system for saying "no" to most development and has thus created the market distortions that we see today. Why are houses so eye-wateringly expensive? Mainly because we have restricted the supply (that and increased the demand with increased immigration).

      My personal experience with council planners is that they have a weird form of jargon-speak (e.g. "harm to the openness of the countryside") and are quite happy to lie and deceive when it suits them in order to reach the desired "no" answer.

      (but we did defeat them and got our modest extension approved - Yes !)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Planning conundrum

        The planning system is one of the last vestiges of C19 reform.

        It stops you having houses built up against the wall of your sulfur belching gas works.

        Ironically now it means you can't build flats in the same high rise as your office but have to put them in identical high rises 10miles apart and drive between them.

  11. Nigel 11

    Not all councils are hopeless

    My council is doing a reasonable job of getting boarded-up shops on the fringes of the high streets converted into houses (*back* into houses in many cases). This keeps the centre of the high street alive (and with a greater number of potential customers nearby).

    Parking restrictions are not unreasonable either. There are free-for-one-hour bays. The real problem is congestion. There are many shops where if someone parked outside for even five minutes, it would bring the whole area to a stand-still. If the high street was built in the days of horses and carts, it's not really fix-able.

    A suggestion that would work in some places with slightly wider high streets. Introduce even-odd day parking controls, as widely used across the channel. On even-numbered days, one side of the street is a clearway (no parking, no waiting, no stopping). On odd-numbered days it's the other side. So you have an entire side of the street where you can park, every day. Three lanes, two of moving traffic and one of parked vehicles. Retailers just have to arrange deliveries on the days when a vehicle is allowed to stop outside their stores.

    Oh, and NO to allowing anyone to convert a house into a shop anywhere. If one has paid for a house in a residential neighbourhood, I think it's right that one can't suddenly find the environment degraded by a shop opening next door. Keep shops in areas zoned for retail, and then you pays your money and takes your chances if you buy a house or flat in a retail zone.

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: Not all councils are hopeless

      Our council on the other hand is worse than useless.

      Our high street has had a shop boarded up about once a month, been happening since 2008, and a good 20% of units now are derelict. Hell, some of them we're built in 2005 and still haven't been moved into.

      I blame the local business rates - a taxi driver "in the know" told me his mate was looking at £26,000 a year in biz rates for a shoebox of a corner shop, the rent was a paltry £20,000 a year by comparison. (I dunno - is this normal? seems insane to me)

      Parking is atrocious - you can't find anything within 10 mintues walking distance that has a limit of more than 2 hours, and the council increased the number of wardens 1400% when fines started going to it, rather than central government.

      And it's the same as any other town - mobile phone shops, banks, and womens clothing retailers. And somehow it manages to support about 20 charity shops - probably filled with the posessions of those shopkeepers driven out of business by the council and the general savvy of the public knowing they can get superior products, knowledge, service and prices on the internet.

      So yeah, anything that re-invigorates the place, or at least stops it looking so shabby and run down would get my vote. I'm also in the market for my first house, so an increase in supply would be welcome (I'll probably just wait until interest rates rise half a percent and the reposessions start rolling in)

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: Not all councils are hopeless

        Those business rates numbers are about right.

        And:

        " And somehow it manages to support about 20 charity shops"

        The charity shops aren't paying full business rates.

      2. Nigel 11

        Re: Not all councils are hopeless

        a taxi driver "in the know" told me his mate was looking at £26,000 a year in biz rates for a shoebox of a corner shop, the rent was a paltry £20,000 a year by comparison.

        For a mini-cab office?

        It's just occurred to me that you could run a mini-cab operation from the back of a mobile home these days. I wonder if that's actually illegal provided you pay your road tax?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tesco's problems aren't just economic

    They're also structural. I can't remember the last time I was in a branch of Tesco where an air of "don't give a shit" didn't pervade. This is a company that used to treat its staff well (including paying the full, adult minimum wage, even to it's youngest employees), and this reflected onto how the staff ran the stores and treated the end customers. Now it reflects something else.

    1. Valerion

      Re: Tesco's problems aren't just economic

      Their problems are because they treat their customers like shit.

      I bought an Xbox game there for my son a few months back. Turns out when I got it home and he tried to play it that it needed an Xbox Live subscription. Given that the only wording on the box that indicated this was obscured by the sticker-covered opaque case they put the games in to prevent you from nicking them, I thought returning it would be no problem.

      But no, this was entirely my fault for not having x-ray vision, and they would not accept a return. I would've happily accepted a voucher or swapped for a different game, but no they were having none of it. I asked the store manager if he would really be happy to lose my custom forever because of it. He said yes. So I handed him my club card and haven't been back to any of their stores since. At £100 per week per average shop that's now about two and a half grand that Sainsurys now have and Tescos don't. I actually sold the game to CEX for what I paid for it.

      If I had bought from Amazon, I'd have been protected by Distance Selling Regs, and also Amazon's customer service is actually pretty damn awesome. I had a delivery from a 3rd party not arrive the other day. Instant refund and extended my Prime by a month for the inconvenience. All accomplished in 2 emails.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Tesco's problems aren't just economic

      I'd call Tesco a textbook example of an organisation that got taken over by accountant types who hollowed it out in a search for ever increasing profits. Things that used to work, carried on working on auto-pilot, but with nobody left who understood the how or why of them. Everything from the shop floors to corporate finance. Last one out, don't turn off the lights ....

      Eventually, one change too many, or one year on auto too many, and the house of cards collapses. Same thing as RBS really, except that Tesco can be allowed to go bust should it run out of money.

      (I defected from Tesco to Sainsbury's a couple of years before the horsemeat scandal. When that happened, I can't say I was surprised. The writing was on the walls, and no-one there was reading it )

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tesco's problems aren't just economic

        "I'd call Tesco a textbook example of an organisation that got taken over by accountant types who hollowed it out in a search for ever increasing profits. "

        Actually the rot started when Terry Leahy left, and was replaced by the recently sacked Phil Clarke - whose background was Tesco's IT and supply chain (board IT director from 1998). So if I might correct your sentence:

        "I'd call Tesco a textbook example of an organisation that got taken over by IT types who hollowed it out in a search for ever increasing profits. " Whilst the commentards round here like to blame accountants and marketing types for everything, in this case the blame sits with the bloke who came out of the server room.

  13. Jim Lewis

    With you until the last paragraph

    That unused retail property could usefully be turned into residential seems obvious and as others have noted already occurs to an extent. The 'logical' view you then state that the reverse should also be true is not so palatable. Just because it makes market sense to start trading from the house next door to mine doesn't mean it will be socially acceptable to do so. Whether it's noise, congestion, parking, delivery vehicles etc. there is a reason that residential areas are designated as such.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone else notice over the last year lots and lots of stuff in tescos got smaller, no more bulk saving products, shower gel is a good example of this. My main gripe is loo roll, they used to do 18 roll packs, now the biggest you can find is 9 rolls. Every time i go in (be it late night) supervisors / managers are just standing around randomly chatting, your lucky if a till is open, putting a large shop though a small self service till is next to impossible (they always used to keep 2 open). They constantly re-arrange items so you have to hunting to find what you want and dont get me started on their value offers (which when you work it out) are more often than not always the best value.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      smaller?

      I suspect that Tesco have finally worked out that people live singly or in smaller families, in smaller flats and houses and so do not want to buy giant sizes of everything that sit only partially used until the rest is thrown away. Most people need enough food to be able to consume before it goes off and a soap or breakfast cerail carton that will fit in a modern, small kitchen's storage cupboards.

      For years a common complaint is the over-sizing of everything. Now they are attending to it. Pricing is another matter.

  15. Fiddler on the roof

    Shopping online is much nicer....

    We went to our local "designer outlet" this weekend and it was awful. Really difficult to park and the shops massively overcrowded, some of them had even set up queueing barries and people were actually queueing to get in! I willl do as much of my Chrimbo shopping online as I can and only venture too the high street as a last resort. Why battle the crowds and parking restrictions when I can sit here in my nice comfy chair and do my shopping? It would be stupid to do otherwise, but admittedly I work at home so its easy to arrange deliveries.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shopping online is much nicer....

      A designer outlet is rarely in the High Street. If it is, go to one of other shops that is not an outlet, paying the higher price if necessary. One can not condemn the whole High Street because you chose a place aimed at the very kind of experience you got.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No shops, no services no economy

    It does not take anyone with half a brain to realise that it is becoming uneconomic to run most shop.

    The problem is that its mutual services that grow an economy,

    Death to most local jobs is in the form of on-line services and shopping.

    Sadly with governments more interested in the next election, apart from a couple of oligarchs we are all screwed.

  17. David Pollard

    Is there room for workshops and small businesses?

    One of the changes in recent decades has been that small workshops in towns and cities are being closed and converted to housing. Where are the electricians, plumbers, carpenters, builders and handymen, furniture makers and restorers ... or even small offices and computer shops? They are now mostly expensive and a few miles away. It's generally hard to start a small business because premises are hard to get, business rates are high, and there are swathes of regulations.

    Regulations and planning, among other factors, have forced a change towards business on the trading estate, shopping in the shopping centres, and people in dormitory zones when they are not working or shopping..

    To my way of thinking this move towards cold efficiency is sterile, and loses much of the vitality that is is seen in more integrated environments.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Is there room for workshops and small businesses?

      Indeed. There are apparently only *two* companies in Hertfordshire who do watch maintenance and repair on the premises (the remainder,mostly chains, send them away to $DEITY$ knows where).

      I want to support local people (to the extent of refusing to use automated checkouts); I want to support skills and training and learning; I want to mend rather than replace where possible - but it's an uphill struggle!

      1. Vic

        Re: Is there room for workshops and small businesses?

        to the extent of refusing to use automated checkouts

        That's usually my position, too.

        I was forced to use one in B&Q last night - there were *no* manned checkouts open :-(

        Vic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is there room for workshops and small businesses?

          "I was forced to use one in B&Q last night"

          You madman! WTF were you doing in Bodge & Quodge? Is there no Screwfix, Toolstation or what have you in the vicinity?

          1. Vic

            Re: Is there room for workshops and small businesses?

            WTF were you doing in Bodge & Quodge? Is there no Screwfix, Toolstation or what have you in the vicinity?

            Not that side of town, AFAIK. And if I'd have come home without the Right Sort of paint, I would have been in more trouble than I care to consider...

            Vic.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Is there room for workshops and small businesses?

              "And if I'd have come home without the Right Sort of paint, I would have been in more trouble than I care to consider"

              Just buy Farrow & Ball. They only appear to do one colour of murky beige, but if there's any challenge on the colour you just show her that is advertised in "Country Homes" or some similar sh*te, and if that doesn't work then just show her how much it cost.

              But I suppose that still means a trip to B&Q.

  18. Ol'Peculier
    Thumb Up

    Bucking the trend...

    I work for a company that has purely traded online for ten years, we opened our first high street shop last month.

    Yes, exactly the opposite of what everybody else is doing, but it's working for us.

  19. mark 63 Silver badge

    So shops cant compete because they pay extra to gather together in the same place , making that place inaccessible to customers. Theres the flaw right there.

    The only reason for keeping the High street I spotted in the article was nostalgia. Perhaps Amazon etal could make there shopping interface into a First person 3D virtual blah blah. Then you can choose your own skin - Diagon Alley , Rodeo Drive, 5th avenue etc

    As far as I'm concerned the high street , with it plethora of problems ( i got up to abot 20 in previous posts) cant die off soon enough. The only issue with the new world order is that I'm never bloody in when the postman turns up. To remedy this I suggest much bigger letterboxes or lockers on houses and if the packege needs a signature: some kind of clever encrypted digital certificate authority type thing so that the courier can prove he dumped it in your box.

    (after all the existing signature, albeit done with a touchscreen, is as useless if not more useless than when we used to write on cheques with a pen - absolutey ZERO security value. I cant believe they are still in use but they are)

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

      @mark63

      Next time sign it M Mouse - very few people bother to check.

    2. Blofeld's Cat
      Pint

      Nostalgia...

      "The only reason for keeping the High street I spotted in the article was nostalgia."

      Ah yes, I remember well the small shops that once made up our local High Street...

      [wavy lines] There was the baker's shop; with his three cats sunning themselves in the window, their noses resting wetly on the loaves ... The butcher's shop; with the flies sitting peacefully on the dismembered carcases hanging outside the window ... the sweet shop; whose owners had a pathological hatred of children ... the 'convenience' store; with its captive audience pricing, and which closed at 4 pm ... All gone now...

      "As far as I'm concerned the high street [...] cant die off soon enough."

      Indeed. (+1)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @mark 63

      Shopping, towns, villages are about more than just getting goods. Sensible and even enjoyable shopping is about more than just an inadequate catalogue on some American site and wating for delivery. Some things, even for utilitarian shopping, need direct contact and trial, e.g. shoes and clothng, how does that computer screen or keyboard feel or the fan sound? Towns can, and sometimes are, also an aesthetic and social experience. Or do you imagine just a line of tea shops, restaurants and pubs while all the money that should be spent in them goes to some Amazon off-shore tax paradise on its way to USA?

      Or perhaps you really do exist just to consume as efficiently as possible.

      As for the difficulties of access in towns: abandoning them is not the answer. Intelligent access, good public transport, not treating parking as a money-spinner and sensible planning and control to discourage the destruction of attractive buildings in favour of monotonous, soulless concrete and glass boxes and to favour independent, locally centred businesses rather than "international" chains would all help.

      Actually, rather than spend lots of money on sleeping policemen, bollards and inconvenient car parks, one could restore reasonable street parking in which the parked vehicles serve to narrow and slow the roads and have car parks within easy walking distance (for a family or someone carrying shopping) of the centre, cheaply priced or free (as the idea is to encourage shoppers).

      In any case, transport patterns are changing. But the needs and desires of people with regard to shopping are not really. Despite all the talk, successful towns are still busy with shoppers browsing books and music in book and music shops, examining and buying food in markets and food shops witht the possibility of discussing new items that one would hardly do on the on line shopping pages. Trying on clothes for look and feel, alone or with friends and family, with the advice, good or bad, of the shop assistant is rather better than a glossy picture on a computer screen and returning per post to get the right size. .....

      Of course your modus operandi may differ from that of most. But towns have served well for thousands of years for a reason - not just lack of internet.

      1. Squander Two

        Re: @mark 63

        > Sensible and even enjoyable shopping is about more than just an inadequate catalogue on some American site and wating for delivery.

        But it's the websites that have the excellent catalogue; it's the high street shops that don't have half of what their firms supposedly sell in stock.

        > Some things, even for utilitarian shopping, need direct contact and trial, e.g. shoes and clothng, how does that computer screen or keyboard feel or the fan sound?

        Which is precisely why in the UK we have distance selling regulations, which are actually very sensible and work well.

        I buy most stuff online now, but yes, some things need that hands-on experience -- the main one being glasses. And, lo and behold, opticians are one of the types of bricks-and-mortar store that seem to be doing perfectly well.

        Shoes, though... well, yes, it's nice to try them on before buying. But I have size 12 feet. Despite humans in this country getting taller and taller for my entire life, every high-street shoe shop still has only two policies regarding size 12. One: buy just one pair or size 12s and don't restock when someone buys them. Two: ask the customer if they'll try size 11 instead. I got into the habit of not even browsing, it was so dispiriting. Instead, I'd go into a shoe shop, approach the first member of staff, and say "Can you please show me which styles you have available in size 12?" They could then show me the two crappy pairs of clown shoes they had and I could leave. Mind you, a lot of them couldn't even answer the question, their stock management was so shite. Buying shoes from Amazon or Surfdome is sheer unadulterated paradise in comparison. Shoe shops are near the top of the list of firms that have killed themselves.

        > Towns can, and sometimes are, also an aesthetic and social experience. Or do you imagine just a line of tea shops, restaurants and pubs ...

        You appear to be implying that tea shops, restaurants, and pubs provide neither aesthetic nor social experiences.

        > ... while all the money that should be spent in them goes to some Amazon off-shore tax paradise on its way to USA?

        What, because it's spent in a pub? What on Earth are you on about?

        > Or perhaps you really do exist just to consume as efficiently as possible.

        What's the problem with efficiency? In days of yore, our grandmothers used to do the shopping by wandering into at least five different shops every day, and no doubt having a nice chat with the shopkeeper. All very nice, and no doubt aesthetic and social, and doable if you're a full-time housewife. Going to one big supermarket that sells everything you need in one go is efficient, yes, in that it is doable for those of us who don't live in 1956 and have full-time jobs and overtime and kids. We can even go to Tesco after work, whilst the quaint little high-street shops close as soon as we get out of work, presumably because they're run by business geniuses.

        > As for the difficulties of access in towns: abandoning them is not the answer.

        What Tim actually suggested was converting shops into houses, so that people could live in them. How on Earth does living in an area equate to abandoning it?

        > Despite all the talk, successful towns are still busy with shoppers browsing books and music in book and music shops, examining and buying food in markets and food shops witht the possibility of discussing new items that one would hardly do on the on line shopping pages.

        Music shops? Are you serious?

        And people do discuss products online, all the time. In these very forums, for a start.

        > But towns have served well for thousands of years for a reason

        Not with shopping high streets, they haven't. That's quite a recent innovation. A lot of these precious high streets that must never be lost are in fact rows of converted houses. Why shouldn't they be converted back again?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The only issue with the new world order is that I'm never bloody in when the postman turns up. "

      Quite frankly this is the only thing that keeps large tracts of the high street in business. If delivery services weren't as shite, offered better priced next day and more widely available evening delivery, courier returns on a similar basis, there'd be no high street.

      As a simple start, offering absolute "on the day" guarantees would help. I don't mind waiting a few days for some things, but the killer is the random 2-10 delivery window for most "free" delivery. Even if you pay extra for next day its not unusual for the supplier/logistics company to fail to do next day. Tesco are widely criticised for being bloody useless, but they've always been pretty dependable on deliveries, including meeting the nominated slot.

      If a bleeding grocer can deliver in a one hour slot booked up to three weeks in advance, why can't Amazon, DHL, DPD and others, given that logistics is their one and only job?

      1. Squander Two

        > If a bleeding grocer can deliver in a one hour slot booked up to three weeks in advance, why can't Amazon, DHL, DPD and others, given that logistics is their one and only job?

        The reason for this was the Royal Mail's monopoly. Up till a few years ago, it was actually illegal to charge less than £1 for a delivery unless you were the Royal Mail, no matter how low you could get your costs. As a result, every other courier service was forced to ignore the domestic market (who are out during the day) and stick to businesses (who are always in during the day and generally shut at weekends). Now the monopoly has been removed, we're beginning to see changes. But, to be fair, switching from Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5 to Monday-to-Friday 6-to-10 plus weekends is a huge change. It was never going to happen quickly.

        Just imagine how much further we could be by now if a government had rescinded that stupid monopoly law a few years earlier.

  20. Eric Olson

    Maslow's Hammer...

    My answer would be to shoot the planners and let rip the free market. Agreed, that is also my solution to most things. It's just that here it's obvious that it would actually work.

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  21. Stretch

    I like the high street. I like shops. I like being able to go and look at things and buy them with cash without risking my financial details to a totally broken security model. I like people having jobs that aren't in dark, dank warehouses. I like the community.

    You seem to be in favour of every building being a house or a warehouse. I don't want to live in that world.

    You seem to suggest a total lack of regulation: "My answer would be to shoot the planners and let rip the free market." Unfortunately, I can easily take this to its logical conclusion; which is where I kill every other human being on this planet, as obviously I want everything and you guys are in my way. Luckily for you there are regulators (police) to stop me enacting this sensible policy.

    1. mark 63 Silver badge

      Yeah but you dont get the full range of "things" do you - even after making all that effort to go the shop and look at the things, then perhaps trawl round a few more shops to find a suitable thing, your choice of things is still extremely limited. If you had just sat on your arse and typed the name of the thing you wanted into google youd have found a much better thing at a much smaller cost that would shortly arrive at your house. And even then once you've "looked at" or even "touched" the thing if it turns out you dont like it distance selling rules mean they have to take the thing back.

      If your wourld domination plan is as well thought out as your shopping strategy I'm not too worried just yet.

      1. Stretch

        @mark 63

        You stay indoors and keep googling things. Then wait 4 weeks for it to arrive. Then find the delivery company has left it in the black bins. Next door. And that it has been taken to landfill already. This is good as it just short circuits the inevitable.

        I don't plan on World Domination. Who wants it? But I would like to kill everyone. If I was to dominate the world shopping would be illegal. Along with Paper, JavaScript, all Crapple products, all Shipping and any commercial Fishing, hunting with anything other than bare hands, and many other things besides. You would be put to work in a planned economy designed to get us off the crappy rock before we ruin the joint.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Stretch

      "You seem to be in favour of every building being a house or a warehouse. I don't want to live in that world."

      You're at liberty to stroll round the shops like a girl (note 1). But why should entire swathes of real estate be earmarked purely for shopping, far beyond the willingness of shoppers to go and patronise them, or retailers to take them on? That's the problem, that's why most towns have loads of unlet shops, and charity shops. The decline of the high street is occuring because many people don't want it, or rather they don't need anything like as much of it. Government and councils are too dim to see this, so they waste money consulting Mary Portas, they demand a "Tesco tax" to steal money from my pocket, to waste on supporting high streets that aren't self sustaining for a reason.

      Nobody has proposed turning every building into warehouse or house. But what's YOUR solution to the tumbleweed strewn areas of towns that have no footfall, empty shops, or shops that exist simply to fill the vacuum of unlet space?

      (1) No disrespect, ladies, just observing that you like shopping, and the unwashed sex generally don't.

  22. Captain Boing

    Evolution

    I see most of this as the evolution in retail. Years ago, people used to take a jug to the farm gate and get their milk, then it changed with the Milk Marketing Board cornering the dairies and making it so you buy your milk from them. Now we buy it with the groceries and the milkman is crying coz he is part of a moribund business model.

    It is a shame to see these things happen but they always have. If I think hard, I can see a time when the big supermarkets would like to close all their stores, save on rent etc and supply everyone online via a fleet of vans operating direct from the warehouses. I am such a hypocrite - i love the "high street" but I shop online and in supermarkets primarily because the high street is so inaccessible what with daft traffic schemes and punishing parking charges.

    It seems the big supermarkets are missing one bit of information as they try to fathom out their demise - consumers are a lot more savvy than they used to be... they don't want to pay 55p for a turnip (you know who you are) and they are being made aware of how badly the supermarkets bully their suppliers - I definitely punish Tesco because they screw over the dairy farmers and pay a price per litre of less than cost... but then I buy milk from supermarkets... told you I was a hypocrite. Would I stop buying mil if the price had to go up to pay a fair price to the farmer and a slice of profit for the retailer? of course not. But it isn't working like that - the greedy bastards want all the price as profit. They are the architects of their doom - it has been a long time coming, but then they have been taking the piss for a long time.

    1. fruitoftheloon

      @Captan Boing Re: Evolution

      Good point re the milk, we are in the middle of Devon (moved here from Surrey), most of our milk, butter and cheese comes from our local dairy (5 miles away) via our excellent corner shop.

      Bizarrely most things are significantly cheaper bought from our local shop than any of the big supermarkets, especially when Mr. Shopkeeper looks up bulk items from Booker Wholesale for us on his Ipad and they arrive a few days later.

      Most folk wouldn't consider checking out their local shop, principally through force of habit and the big marketing budgets of the supermarkets, give it a go, you may be surprised...

      J

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: @Captan Boing Evolution

        "force of habit and the big marketing budgets of the supermarkets"

        Gawd yes. Tescos is losing market share, Sainburys is in the red and Morrisons latest gimmick is saying they "price match" with Aldi and Lidl. I thought the "big boys" were supposed to be using economies of scale and so able to offer the best prices and therefore are the cause of other, smaller shops, going out of business. And yet they can't seem to compete on price or quality with those same smaller shops and, as you say, it's habit and marketing budget keeping so many shoppers from looking elsewhere. Things have been changing slowly, as the above mentioned problems the big boys are having demonstrates, but so many of the smaller, local shops are already gone. Maybe we'll just end up with a bit of a re-shuffle and some new boys (Aldi, Lidl) added into the big boys club.

        Now, if only Morrisons could learn that we are not all stupid and we can check that the bag of "8 bananas" is twice the price by weight of the loose bananas.

    2. Squander Two

      Re: Evolution

      > Tesco because they screw over the dairy farmers and pay a price per litre of less than cost

      The reason Tesco do this is that the dairy farmers sell the milk to them at that price. I agree it's not great for dairy farmers, but it's essentially no different from what's happening to musicians: oversupply. If you're selling something at below cost and you keep doing it, it's not your business; it's your hobby. It seems that a lot of dairy farmers, just like musicians, keep doing their work because it's their hobby. That is of course their right. But, if it is a business rather than a hobby, some of them need to consider going into other lines of work. And, if enough of them do so, the price of milk will go up.

  23. Ketlan
    Devil

    Flog 'em all

    Perhaps a better solution would be to force the owners of empty houses either to let them out to tenants or to sell them to people who need them. There are an estimated 845,000 houses sitting around empty (last year). More info here:

    http://www.emptyhomes.com/statistics-2/empty-homes-statistice-201112/

  24. Naughtyhorse
    Devil

    Get rid of the planners you sez?

    cool beans, :-)

    makes it much easier to get my combined slaughterhouse and heavy metal band practice rooms off the ground.

    great site, it's in bath, next door to what used to be a pub....

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Broadly I have to agree with the article but if anything it doesn't go far enough. It's true "they" aren't making any more land but it's not true that we have a particular shortage of it. What we have a shortage of is land current planning legislation lets us build on.

    Anyway, what's interesting about planning as we have it at the moment is that it's one of the few areas of our government where we have highly centralized top down control. Yes, the councils technically have the power but they are implementing rules from upon high that don't leave a lot of wiggle room. The end result is we pay for the same decision to be made in every council and the same problems everywhere.

  26. Steven Davison

    Peter Richardson - not a rushmoor resident?

    Anyway, I've done some looking into this, and it does seem obsurd, in the costs to run a shop. We've had an entire area of a shopping centre completely empty for at least 5 years. Shops do occasionally open once in a while, but they never last.

    the only shops that seem to stay are the bigger chains that do bring in enough to justify it, or just the ones who can bully the local council enough.

    My suggestion would be to drop the rates/rent for these shops to a minimal amount (rather than stay at the extortionate rates they are now) and allow businesses to thrive. more shops mean more customers. More customers mean more profit... if a business is earning well, then they will stay and suddenly the council is making far more than they are now.... why is it so hard to see?

  27. Sir Sham Cad

    Pubs flats Tesco planning permission etc...

    Down my way my local pub had changed hands a few times on short leases but the level of custom, despite the pub being popular, couldn't pay the stupidly high rent the pubco demanded hence it kept shutting and reopening under new management. Eventually the last lot (Antic) chose not to renew their short lease and the pubco flogged the freehold on what is quite a large building with a decent amount of land for a London boozer. Developers bought it, stripped it and boarded it up and left it empty. The reason was that, in order to get a change of use they needed to leave it unused as a pub for 2 years.

    Pub a little further down the road, same council, shut down by the beak and was a Tesco Express within a month.

    Now I'm not wise in the ways of change of use planning permission so it's very possible that it's easier to get COU from pub to retail than pub to residential and I'm thankful for small mercies that it's not going to be a bloody supermarket but a large, prominent building in the area is going to remain derelict for another year at least. I'd rather see it used for something.

    Of course I'd rather see it used as a pub and if the pubco didn't set insane leases on a place that only made moderate turnover it'd still be there but that's another rant altogether.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too much tax.

    There’s a few fairly obvious flaws in designating more land for housing and having a land value tax – not least of which being they are unrelated issues.

    Firstly then, more building. You can’t build your way out of uncontrolled immigration. Immigration may be good, or it may be bad or neutral depending on your view point, but it definitely increases demand for housing and for local services (schools, hospitals, roads etc). Allowing almost 250,000 people to arrive net per year requires building a minimum of say 120,000 dwellings assuming many will be couples or already have children. Throw on top of that a domestic baby boom, and pretty soon you need to build nearly 250,000 houses or flats per year just to hold off demand.

    The principal problem with building new stuff is that it reduces the price of nearby existing stock, partly due to competition for buyers, and partly due to its almost exclusively poor design & build quality. People already living there, having paid full market rate for their property are understandably averse to a chunk of that being removed from them and split between the developer, the council, and the new buyers. Somehow, the cost of building more services never seems to be passed onto those receiving the benefits from the new dwellings, and is instead shared between the existing residents, who now have more overcrowding with which to contend. Were the costs of expanding these services attributed directly to the new properties, there would be significantly less resistance to their being built.

    So, to the land value tax. We’re so far around the laffer curve now that new taxes simply aren’t raising any more money. If the pips aren’t squeaking, it’s because they’ve been crushed. Any new tax would have to be offset against an existing tax, which would have to be income tax as nothing else raises enough money. That’s great, if you’re a 20 something FTB with a life time of offsetting the property taxes against your earnings to look forward too, but less desirable if you’re already retired and pay next to nothing in income taxes. For every 1% per annum you wish to LVT, the average homeowner must find almost £2000. Not a problem for many, as income taxes on the average salary will exceed that amount, but it’s a major issue if you’ve only the state pension to live on.

    The other issue with a land value tax being, of course, those on welfare won’t have to pay it. It’ll just be another tax on the productive part of the economy that can ill afford to bear it.

    The time has come for Britain, and the rest of Europe to take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and realise that the state cannot go on spending half of what the rest of us produce. We must see a significant withdrawal from the current 45% of GDP down to a more sustainable 33%. That will require some hard decisions in terms of what the services the state spends our money on and what it simply stops doing. It will also require a genuine realignment of pay & perks across the public sector – national bargaining is a silly idea from a bygone age, as are the gold plated defined benefit pensions.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Too much tax.

      Well, this isn't wholly and exactly true:

      "The principal problem with building new stuff is that it reduces the price of nearby existing stock"

      Land in Mayfair that you can build a house upon is worth a lot more than land in the middle of Sedgemoor that you can build a house upon. Largely because the former has 10 million other people living around it and the latter has, well, no one.

      And the point of an LVT is to tax that increase in value that all those other people (plus the sewers, the roads, the Tube etc that have been built) add to that piece of land.

      That said, sure, if you extend the city one more row of houses out into the green belt then you reduce the value of those houses that used to be the last row before the green belt.

      It's not entirely one way or the other.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too much tax.

        Well, this isn't wholly and exactly true:

        "The principal problem with building new stuff is that it reduces the price of nearby existing stock"

        I have looked... And I can't find a single instance where building a new build housing estate next to existing housing has had a positive influence upon the value of the existing housing.

        I can find some solid examples of the opposite being true though. Take a look at Baldock in north herts. Its about to double in size in terms of dwellings. Your theory holds that all these people wanting to live there should increase the value of the existing property in Baldock. My theory is that it won't, and will in fact, reduce the value of the existing dwellings - possibly quite substantially so.

        Perhaps you'd care to wager £30 to charity on the direction in which that moves prices?

        1. Squander Two

          Re: Too much tax.

          > The principal problem with building new stuff is that it reduces the price of nearby existing stock

          My argument with this point is simply with the idea that it's a problem. Housing in the UK is too expensive. Hordes of people can no longer afford anywhere to live. More and more people are living with their parents well into their twenties, sometimes their thirties. And a decrease in house prices is a problem? How? A thing that is far too expensive will get cheaper: yay!

          No-one ever makes this argument about computers for some reason. Or medicine.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Too much tax.

            "And a decrease in house prices is a problem? How? A thing that is far too expensive will get cheaper: yay!"

            If you don't own a house or want to buy a bigger house, then it isn't a problem.

            If you just bought a house or need to sell your final house to fund retirement (in a carehome), then it very much is a problem.

            You get stuck with negative equity and now you can't move if you need to, and you can't remortgage when your fixed period ends. All due to unpredictable government interference in an established market. That very much is a problem.

            It won't be my problem personally - I have about 40% equity in my property and would be happy to buy a cheaper bigger house. That thought won't comfort anyone that bought in the last 2 or 3 years very much, or anyone that bought in much of the north since about 2007.

            No government is going to win votes by bankrupting a good chunk of Generation X and Y, so that the younger parts of Gen Y and Gen Me Me Me can skip over the starter homes and go for a family home as a first buy.

            1. Squander Two

              Re: Too much tax.

              Talk of bancruptcy dramatically underestimates the extent of house price increases over the last couple of decades. If house prices were to drop by about 10%, that would be regarded as a crash; 20% would be a major crippling disastrous crash. And yet, even after a 20% drop, most houses would still cost a lot more than they did 10 years ago and a hell of a lot more than they did 20 years ago. Hell, just 5 years after I bought my house, its price could have dropped by 50% and still been higher than when I bought it. That's insane. (That has since been redressed somewhat by 2008's shenanigans. But even with that -- one of the most catastrophic financial crashes in history, apparently, directly linked to mortgages and house prices -- its still more expensive than when I bought it.)

              Anyone think allowing shops to be converted to houses is likely to cause a drop of anything like that size? Especially given that so many commenters here have explained that it's already being allowed in their areas, and yet we don't seem to have seen a giant devastating house-price earthquake on the news.

  29. Dan Paul

    Tax Vacant Property the Highest!

    Speculation on property value is one of the problems. All vacant property does is to bring down the value of neighboring buildings and attract breakins and vandalism. If it stays vacant after say 6 months, I say double the property taxes. This will prevent land speculation and help neighborhood blight. You need some kind of rent control for low income so "gentrification" doesn't leave the locals bankrupt.

    Next I would make conversion back to housing a simpler activity. A local corner store goes belly up and the landlord wants to make it residential again then so be it. Don't charge them zillions to do it, just permit and inspect the work and be on your way.

    Next, regulate the damn insurance companies and prevent them from discriminating against upper level apartments over street level businesses. Those floors are vacant because the insurers think that those floors are automatically dangerous when over the top of a business. They charge the landlord way more if they rent the space. Honestly they are only statistically dangerous if there is a kitchen with certain equipment on the lower floor.

    If these few things are done you will find that residents will return to the city centers, businesses will again flourish and blight will be greatly decreased.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Tax Vacant Property the Highest!

      All vacant property does is to bring down the value of neighboring buildings and attract breakins and vandalism. If it stays vacant after say 6 months, I say double the property taxes.

      Please define vacant?

      I'm asking because if you define it as utterly unoccupied for the whole time, then the landlord will simply stay over two nights a year to avoid the additional tax. If you set a lower threshold, you can have problems during renovations, or if the owner is hospitalised for a time, while still not preventing the landlord leaving it empty most of the time.

      Vacant houses seem inefficient to me - they could be attracting rent, or sold to a buyer with the proceeds earning interest or dividends. I suspect we agree that unused housing seems wrong, though perhaps not for the same underlying reasons. That being said, is it not your right to buy what you will with your hard earned post tax money, and to leave it unused if you so wish? I'll freely admit to not thinking that balance through, which is why I asked the question. If we apply it to houses, what else should it apply to? Cars perhaps? Tools? Factory units? Does it apply to my spare box room?

      I'm not trying to pick an argument, I'm just interested, and would like to better understand how far you'd extend your line of reasoning.

  30. Chris Evans

    "Crimbo" please don't!

    "Crimbo" what a horrible word. I can't take any article using it seriously.

    If Christmas was a festival of any other religion other than Christianity, you wouldn't be mangling the name would you?

    Just because Christianity is tolerant and you won't see me burning your effigy outside El. Reg. Towers doesn't make it right!

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: "Crimbo" please don't!

      Oh, but what he's talking about is not a religious festival. It's a secular commercialized phenomenon. I suspect if Jesus returned today, it would not be moneychangers in the temple that he'd take against. Bankers and big retailers more likely. (Maybe the same thing, if one reads "world" for "temple" and treats it as allegory).

      Crimbo seems appropriately horrible for the secular stuff. Christmas is the religious festival that happens at the same time of the year.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "Crimbo" please don't!

        I suspect if Jesus returned today, it would not be moneychangers in the temple that he'd take against. Bankers and big retailers more likely.

        I personally think he'd start with healing the sick. Abolishing incapacity benefit would cure more than half the long term sick. The rest he'd actually have to heal.

  31. Vic

    Commercial properties don't always make good residential ones

    Commercial properties are generally intended to get people coming in - residential properties are quite the opposite.

    My mate bought the old Post Office in Exbury. It was very disappointing - they ended up living behind closed curtains, because people kept trying to peer through the windows at all hours...

    Vic.

  32. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Heheheh! Back in the early '90s Coventry's answer to the abysmal parking situation was to demolish the largest car park in the city and ask everyone to park miles away and use a "park and ride" bus. No attendants were used in the (not free) parking facility to save even more money.

    Completely unpredictably, thieves had a field day knicking people's car radios and thieving stuff out of their boots while the owners were in Owen Owen or Marks 'n' Sparks.

    This being the precursor to tearing the entire town down in a very convincing re-enactment of The Blitz and re-tasking it as a tourist and retail mecca, I was not impressed (but having moved to the USA, neither was I affected).

    It was also hot on the heels of the rush to emulate, mistakes and all, the American Model for the Privatization of British Rail, the Post Office and The Seven Trent Water Authority. Talk about a train wreck. With *actual* train wrecking.

    For a while I wondered if someone was putting something in the water. Then I realized there was no centralized water authority to speak of any more so it had to be something akin to the Cyberman Control Signal o' Doom.

    Then the digital radio controversy started and it all fell into place. Britain was under the iron heel and direct mental control of the BBC. This also explains how they can get away with the scripts for Doctor Who.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Bah!

      Eh?

      "mistakes and all, the American Model for the Privatization of British Rail"

      US rail has always been private. It's only the money losing passenger services (Amtrack) that were nationalised. And they still are.

      "the Post Office and The Seven Trent Water Authority." And USPO and most US water is still government run. And they ain't any better, far from it.

  33. earl grey Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Bakelite with Rotary dial?

    Still have mine. Now get off my lawn.

  34. F0rdPrefect
    Trollface

    Yes, lets do away with planning!

    I'm going to buy the houses on either side of yours and turn one into a late night disco and the other into an abattoir.

    As you are against the planners blocking changes from businesses to housing, and back again, I sure that you won't object.

    Any more than I am objecting to my town being increased in size by 10% on land that will cause flooding to the 10% of the town downhill from this greenfield site. And the housing isn't even for local people because there are not that many in the district looking for housing. Well not that many that will be able to afford to buy what is in the plans.

    But surely this is another argument against planning, I hear you say, well the planners turned it all down as unnecessary and inappropriate and Whitehall overruled them.

    Support your local planners!

  35. Mike Flugennock
    FAIL

    oh, great, another one of these "the Market is God" clowns

    "...This, of course, brings up that terrible bugbear: who should plan this change? To which I say we've another method to deal with such things. Get rid of much of the planning and let the market deal with it all..."

    I don't know about your side of the Pond, but here in the Colonies, "letting the market deal with it" is why we're in so much trouble, why the cost of housing is shooting to the Moon, and why we have people working at full-time jobs -- including software developers -- living in homeless shelters or sleeping on friends' sofas. And, in pretty much all US cities and towns, urban planners and developers are totally in the hip pocket of the Market Is God crowd.

    Yeah, the Market has really dealt with problems over here, pal.

  36. Artaxerxes

    The high streets far from dead, its just filled with fried chicken and pizza shops.

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