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Cheshire-based franchise calls for diversity on retail-focused high streets

A Cheshire-based franchise claims its growth into high streets has been held back by “archaic” planning policies and landlords’ restrictions.

Maths tutoring firm Mathnasium is calling for reforms to allow more diversified high streets after experiencing difficulty in securing new units in some areas of the country.

Steve Felmingham, UK director of Mathnasium which has a UK head office in Knutsford, says: “Local town planning departments up and down the country set their own planning policy, many of which are archaic and out of touch with the needs of consumers. These are undoubtedly prohibiting many businesses from establishing a high street presence.

“Many councils insist on a 95% retail business occupancy.  This sometimes results in buildings lying empty for months on end whilst legitimate businesses like ours are refused change of use applications.”

high streets, Mathnasium

Steve Felmingham, UK operations director of Mathnasium.

The franchise has so far launched into eight UK high streets but says it has been faced with challenges in other areas due to planning guidelines and a refusal from landlords to allow a business change of use.

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

“Unless action is taken, we are in danger of at best retaining a homogenous high street, or at worst no high street at all.  By attracting a range of organisations, you encourage variety of services – this helps to drive interest, increase footfall and in turn secure further investment.”

Peter Higginbottom, director at planning consultancy Planning Insight, suggests the matter is becoming “increasingly frustrating” for businesses trying to secure high street premises, adding: “Overly restrictive planning policies and a lack of flexibility by local authorities are only going to serve to drive the high street into greater decline.  Those with flexible planning policies, will enable more diverse and successful high streets.”