With the right controls, expanding development rights could save town centres

Paul Smith CROP

Allowing buildings in Class E to convert to residential use would be entirely sensible if properly managed, says Strategic Land Group’s Paul Smith

Manchester’s St Ann’s Square started life as common land before succumbing to development pressure in the early 18th century. A series of grand Georgian town houses originally sat around a tree-lined square but, over time, as Manchester grew into one of the most powerful cities of the industrial age, affluent residents moved out to the new suburbs and the square gradually became a fashionable shopping district. Although the shops remained, the next stage of evolution was for their upper floors to be turned into offices. Today, with demand for city centre homes growing once again, residents are returning to the square as those offices are converted into apartments. We’ve seen residential to retail to offices and back to residential all in the same square.

This is good illustration of how our towns and cities have always changed and evolved over time, driven by a powerful and complicated system of economics, land availability and even fashion.

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