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New campaign to let out disused space for flats
THE disused upstairs floors of shops and other business in the centre of York could be turned into flats to tackle the city’s housing crisis.
City of York Council has set aside £30,000 to carry out a review of disused upper floors and to assess how they could be brought back into use.
Tracey Simpson-Laing, the deputy council leader, said many shops in the centre had upstairs rooms, which were included in their rent and business rates bills.
“If you go down Coney Street, there’s a building that has been empty for 12 months now,” she said.
“The rent is over £80,000 a year, then you’d have to pay business rates on top. The square footage of the shop is far too small for a national chain, but the rent is too high for somebody wanting to start a business because it is over four floors.
“Even when there have been people in that building, they never or very rarely used three out of the four floors.”
The council is working with Newcastle Civic Trust, which has successfully implemented city centre living in its Grange Town scheme, and has also received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Coun Simpson-Laing said: “It would bring vibrancy back to the city centre and use property that’s already there. A lot of people do want to live in the city centre.”
She said the council needed to work with the buildings’ owners, who were not necessarily based in York.
She said while previously commercial yields had been more attractive to landlords, the need to bring disused floors back into use was recognised by landlords, and businesses such as solicitors’ firms, which may in the past have occupied such spaces, were tending to find new higher-profile premises.
A planning application went through last year for the owners of the Pizza Hut building, in Pavement, to create six two-bedroom flats in the upper floors, which used to be a 20-bedroom hotel.
Ron Cooke, chairman of Reinvigorate York, said the idea had been around since the 1960s when it was recommended in a report by Lord Esher, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, on the city’s future.
He said there followed a push in the 1980s and 1990s and Reinvigorate York had now brought the issue back to the table. The £30,000 for the study will come from the council’s delivery and innovation fund, which supports schemes that boost York’s economy.