IT would be difficult to overstate the scale of the challenge for Glasgow in achieving crucial large-scale conversion of old buildings into houses.

The other side of this coin is the opportunity is great, and realisation of it could boost the city’s prosperity.

Many heritage sandstone buildings in the traditional central business district, which were for decades used as offices and in many cases housed operations of major scale, have the potential to be converted into housing. Much of

the city’s business community has shifted down towards the river, as the international financial services district has developed.

Glasgow City Council aims to double the number of people living in the city centre.

However, while a raft of major new-build projects have been going through the planning process in recent years, large-scale conversion of former office buildings to residential use remains elusive.

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It is crucial the reasons for this are examined, and solutions formulated to overcome the hurdles.

This would not only aid the city’s economy but also help ensure preservation of fine old buildings, too many of which have over the years and decades been allowed to fall into disrepair, with some lost forever. Finding solutions to enable retrofitting of older buildings to greatly improve their energy performance is crucial in the battle against climate change.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, told The Herald recently that conversion of older buildings into houses was “the big barrier”

to increasing the population in the city centre.

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He called for a “degree of flexibility around planning” – which seems like a good idea given that enabling conversion will help preserve older buildings – and “some financial incentives”. Mr Patrick has flagged potential for incentives to be provided through tax reliefs or grant funding, and both routes seem sensible.

The UK Government should look at tax reliefs for such conversion, in Glasgow and elsewhere.

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The old business premises renovation allowance (BPRA), which was a 100 per cent tax allowance for certain spending when converting or renovating unused business premises in a disadvantaged area, is an example of how targeted tax relief can stimulate development. Much of Glasgow city centre fell within the scope of BPRA, which ended in 2017, and the tax relief proved the catalyst for several hotel developments.

The differential treatment of conversion and new-build construction in the value-added tax regime should also be examined.

Much is at stake here, and time is of the essence.