The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) made two announcements recently regarding changes to building regulations and new powers being granted to local authorities (LAs) in a bid to revive and regenerate high streets.

Regenerating high streets

DLUHC has announced two new LA powers intended to be in force by the summer:

  • High Street Rental Auctions
  • High Street Accelerators.

Both initiatives were introduced in the Government’s 2023 Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, but have yet to come into force.

The High Street Rental Auction powers will allow LAs to step in where a high street shop has been empty for over a year and auction off a rental lease for up to five years. The auctions will take place with no reserve price allowing local businesses to occupy spaces at a competitive rate and the hope is that the first auctions will take place in September 2024.

The High Street Accelerators pilot scheme will also provide a £5million fund shared between 10 LAs, allowing them to improve and plant more green spaces in their communities and upgrade high streets in order to ‘entice residents back to the shops’. The funds will be awarded to high streets in the North West, three in Yorkshire and the Humber, one in the East Midlands and one in the East of England with a hope to roll the programme out more widely if successful.

Regarding this initiative Minister for Levelling Up, Jacob Young, said: “We want to bring high streets back to life and these new levelling up powers will help do just that.”

Single sex toilets

DLUHC announced last month that they intend to bring forward legislation ensuring that new non-domestic buildings provide separate single-sex toilets rather than gender neutral toilets in line with their aim to ‘offer support, compassion and dignity to everyone across our society’.

This is not a new initiative and has been on the Government’s agenda since October 2020. However, it has returned to the spotlight after the statutory instrument creating the legislation was laid before Parliament on 15 May 2024 and DLUHC announced that the new legislation would come into force in October 2024.

The new legislation will amend building regulations, so that new non-residential buildings must provide single sex toilets as the default with a possible exemption for schools and custodial facilities such as prisons.

It will be possible to install self-contained universal toilets in addition to single sex toilets where there is sufficient space for both, and there will also be an exemption where there is insufficient space for single sex toilets in which case the legislation will allow installation of self-contained universal toilets only.

DLUHC’s report on their consultations revealed that this move was very popular amongst respondents, with 81% agreeing with separate single-sex toilet facilities. 86% of responses raised safety concerns for identified groups of people using toilets and with 79% mentioning safety for trans/non-binary people and 75% mentioning safety concerns for women.

The legislation will not apply in any case where a building notice, an initial notice or an application for building control approval with full plans, has been given to the relevant authority prior to 1 October 2024. In addition the building work to which it relates must be sufficiently progressed within six months ending on 1 April 2025 at the latest. It is not yet known how sufficiently progressed will be quantified, however, once this transitional phase expires, all new building regulations applications must conform to the new requirements.

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