Westminster City Council has taken action to prevent its high streets from being overrun by non-retail businesses like estate agents.
From January 2017, new planning rules will ensure that all conversions of shops to services such as estate agents, employment agencies and bureau de change in Westminster’s high streets require planning permission.
The measures follow a 27% increase in the number of estate agents in Westminster last year – the largest seen anywhere in London.
The sudden influx has changed the character of several areas, reducing variety in the city’s shopping districts which make these areas less attractive for shoppers.
The ‘Article 4 Direction’ will allow the council to limit particular industries from dominating retail space, ensuring that the city's shopping districts continue to serve their community with a wide range of businesses and retailers.
Cllr Robert Davis MBE DL, Westminster City Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Built Environment said: “Westminster is a wonderful patchwork of historic villages and local town centres and our high streets are the beating heart of each of those communities, treasured by residents and visitors alike.
"In the last year, we have, for example, seen an increase in the number of estate agents in Westminster that has put the character of some centres at risk. These measures will protect variety on our high streets and improve everyone’s shopping experience.
This is not a blanket restriction. Some financial services, like local bank branches, which provide valuable local services will be encouraged, but if we do not act now, our high streets are under threat of being overrun. The action we are taking will help us strike the right balance so that Londoners continue to have a range of shops and services on their doorstep.”