I HAVE recently been talking with friends about the changes that will become permanent after this pandemic is under control. These are likely to be more folk continuing to work from home with consequent empty office space; more shops closing permanently, leaving town centres even more derelict; and more folk made destitute and losing their homes, at a time when affordable housing is already too scarce.

We are agreed that there could be a way, with some joined-up thinking, to use these three factors to provide a common solution, although there might be a few problems requiring imaginative solutions.

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Most of the shops lying empty in town centres have upper storeys, some used only for storage, others totally unused and all with some access thereto, normally in an out-of-the-way part of the ground floor. If these stairways could be partitioned off, could the upper floors not readily be converted into affordable flats, mainly one bedroom, but sometimes a bit larger with two, or smaller as bedsits, giving a reasonable population mix?

This would not only provide the solution to the need for affordable housing, but also revive the town centres, provide a customer base to keep current shops open and even lead to other empty ones being reopened. People living in the centre again would also encourage other facilities too, such as restaurants, pubs, nightclubs and even theatres and exhibition space, which are all being badly hit at present. It could reduce the need for new-build, and provide income where currently there is none.

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This could be a win-win project. Obviously, there are some difficulties to overcome. The VAT on renovations is a disincentive, and councils may own some properties in town centres, but others belong to absent landlords unwilling to fork out cash with no current income.

Is it, however, beyond our politicians to remove these deterrents and make such a solution to multiple problems a reality?

P Davidson