Healthcare hubs and care homes should take over empty High Street units, report advises

Empty units on high streets at risk of becoming “ghost towns” should become healthcare hubs, gyms, and care homes after the pandemic, a report has recommended.
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Think-tank the Social Market Foundation said that town planners must prioritise reimagining the high street as restrictions lift.

A total of 11.3 per cent of high street units were vacant in November last year, according to figures from Springboard, with fears that many more could close as lockdown continues.

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High streets have seen the highest number of unit closures since April 2013.

A leading think-tank has pointed to Wakefield as an example of where empty retail space has been used for healthcare hubsA leading think-tank has pointed to Wakefield as an example of where empty retail space has been used for healthcare hubs
A leading think-tank has pointed to Wakefield as an example of where empty retail space has been used for healthcare hubs

The report points town planners to Wakefield as an example of good practise for its usage of urban space after the formation of its Health and Social Hubs which operate in Lupset, Hemsworth and Castleford.

The”one-stop” hubs connect patients with complex needs with medical professionals, charities and pharmacists.

Scott Corfe, SMF Research Director, said: “The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic looks set to change our high streets permanently. To remain relevant, our town and city centres will need to be reimagined – and we think that health should be a key aspect of this repurposing of the high street.”

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“Bringing more parks, GP surgeries, gyms and ‘health hubs’ to the high street could prevent the rise of ghost towns and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the population,”

The report also suggested that empty units be repurposed into sheltered accommodation, or care homes, for elderly people who would prefer to live within walking distance of restaurants and shops.