Government consults on "town centre first" planning rules

Out-Law News | 07 Aug 2013 | 4:50 pm | 2 min. read

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) yesterday launched a consultation (20-page / 121KB PDF) on proposals to create five new permitted development rights in a bid to support the high street and rural communities.

The consultation paper sets out proposals to allow premises used as shops or for financial and professional services to be converted into homes without the need for planning permission. Any conversions would be subject to prior approval of the design and to allow account to be taken of the potential impact of the lost use on the economic health of the town centre.

The paper proposes to allow shops to be converted into banks and building societies, but not into any other uses within the A2 Use Class. The DCLG said that this right would recognise the "changing nature" of banks and building societies which it said now "adopt a more retail-like approach" to the design of their premises".

For buildings used for agricultural purposes, the DCLG proposes to allow conversions into homes as well as the building work connected with such a change of use. It said that this would help bring forward additional homes in rural communities and contribute to the delivery of the Coalition Agreement pledge of supporting "homes on the farm".

The consultation also includes a proposal to allow offices, hotels, residential institutions, secure residential institutions as well as assembly and leisure buildings to change use to nurseries providing childcare. The DCLG said this would allow non-domestic early years childcare providers to deliver "additional and high quality" places to meet increasing demand.

Another proposal would allow buildings used for agricultural purposes to be converted into new state funded schools or nurseries providing childcare. This would help find local educational provision and suitable buildings for new providers to convert to schools, which can be "particularly difficult" in rural areas, the DCLG said.

The DCLG said in a statement that the proposals reflect the advice of Mary Portas' review into the nation's high streets, which recommended more flexibility for change of use, and would help the high street, rural communities and local retailers by increasing footfall and spending.

"Removing unnecessary planning burdens and regulations will cut red tape for owners wishing to unlock the potential of empty properties which do not currently have a viable future in their current use. It will also encourage them to revitalise their properties and reduce the chance of less suitable development," it said.

"Thousands of empty and underused buildings, often on the edge of town centres, are going to waste because people do not want the hassle and uncertainty of submitting a planning application," said Planning Minister Nick Boles.

"Removing this barrier will bring more people closer to their town centres, providing a much needed boost to local shops and ensuring we make the most of buildings that are already there for new homes, nurseries and schools this country needs. Extending these permitted development rights on brownfield land will benefit all communities - whether in towns or the countryside," he added.