Budget and Planning Reform: Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of the new homes

The Planning reform consultation proposes crucial changes to the planning system and permitted development rights – promoting residential use through conversions and extensions – and to use class orders – proposing the creation of a new Class A to include shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes. Namely:

Shop to office conversions

A new Permitted Development right is proposed “to allow shops (A1) financial and professional services (A2), hot food takeaways (A5), betting shops, pay day loan shop and launderettes to change to office use (B1)."

New Homes

MHCLG propose changes to allow the change of use of hot food takeaways (A5) to residential use (C3) without planning permission and the introduction of a new PD right “allowing for the demolition of commercial buildings and redevelopment as residential.” 

However, the revised National Planning Policy Framework (July 2018) was largely unchanged regarding high street policies and, if the measures announcedare to be delivered, the NPPF will need to be radically amended. 

It will be interesting to see whether there will be size limits proposed for the shops which can be converted and whether any form of prior approval will be included in the process.

Upward extensions

The consultation also proposed allowing property owners to use the airspace above existing buildings for new homes without planning permission but subject to prior approval. The new PD right could apply to premises in a terrace of two or more joined properties where there is at least one higher building in the terrace and the proposed roof would be no higher than the main roofline of the highest building. There is also an alternative proposal to permit additional storeys more widely to height no higher than the prevailing roof height of the local area.

A maximum limit of five storeys from ground levels is proposed for the extended buildings, requiring the additional storey to exceed 3m in height. 

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), commenting on the proposed Permitted Development (PD) rights, state “whether it is to convert shops to residential use or adding storeys to buildings – we do not have a track record of producing quality development and we need to be cautious about their use.”

Extending temporary change of use for community uses

The government also proposes extending the existing PD right for the temporary change of use from shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), hot food takeaways (A5), assembly and leisure uses (D2), betting shops and pay day loan shops to certain community uses as public library, exhibition hall, museum, clinic or health centre. The extension of the period of the temporary use from to 2 years to 3 years is also proposed. 

Making permanent existing time-limited permitted development rights

Potential great news for developers and homeowners who want to convert storage spaces to houses and erect larger extensions. The existing time-limited PD rights that will currently cease to have effect in May 2019 are proposed to become permanent. The change will apply to:

  1. Change of use from storage or distribution (B8) to residential use (C3) (up to 500sq m)
  2. Singe storey rear extension to a house (8m beyond the original rear wall for detached houses and 6m beyond the rear wall for the semi detached and terraced homes)

Town centres and Use Class Orders

According to the consultation document, the government, in its effort to consider “how operation of the Use Classes Order can support greater flexibility” at high streets, says there "could be scope for a new use class that provides for a mix of uses within the A1, A2 and A3 uses beyond that which is considered to be ancillary, which would support the diversification of high street businesses." This would replace the existing A1, A2, A3 use classes and result in a single use class to cover shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes. 

Public phone boxes

As part of the Planning Reform consultation document, the government also proposed to remove the PD right allowing the installation of new public phone boxes and the associated advertising consent without planning permission. It says that an increasing number of prior approval applications for public call boxes has been recorded with a subsequent increase in the number of appeals. 

Article prepared by Michaela Kekeri


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