Planning rules to be relaxed to help retailers offer 'click and collect' services

Out-Law News | 12 Aug 2014 | 10:52 am | 2 min. read

Planning laws in England and Wales are to be relaxed to allow retailers to offer 'click and collect' services to consumers more easily, the UK government has said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is consulting on plans which would allow retailers to adapt existing property to cater for click and collect services without the need for new planning consent (98-page / 486KB PDF). 'Click and collect' describes a facility enabling consumers who have ordered goods on the internet to collect those goods at physical stores.

The move will help retailers "adapt to online shopping preferences" and "attract people back to the high street", it said.

"Retailers are already able to reconfigure their car parks, provided that there are no planning conditions which specify parking numbers and layout," the DCLG said in its consultation paper. "Where a condition exists a retailer can negotiate varying the terms of this condition with the local planning authority. We want go beyond rearranging parking layouts and give retailers more scope to use their parking facilities more effectively."

"Under existing permitted development rights retailers can extend their existing shops and build small trolley stores within the curtilage of existing shops, subject to certain conditions and limitations. The government intends to build on these permitted development rights and allow the erection of small, ancillary buildings which could facilitate ‘click and collect’ services," it said.

Andrea McIlroy-Rose, head of retail property at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “This proposal illustrates that  the UK government is starting to realise that the retail environment has been changed completely by online sales and that the planning legislation needs to move with this so that it still remains relevant and helps promote the stores of the future. Click and collect facilities are usually an addition to compliment the most modern retail units and the more relaxed proposals seem to appreciate this. It will help the UK remain competitive and attract the most active retailers.”

Under the plans, buildings up to four metres in height and spanning 20 square metres in floor space could be constructed as part of the retailers' existing permitted development rights. A number of conditions would apply, however, including that the buildings are not erected closer than two metres to "a boundary of the curtilage of the shop" or within five metres of the nearest highway.

In addition, there would need to be "a prior approval to consider the design, siting and external appearance of any new structure".

The proposed relaxation of planning rules would not apply if the developments are proposed in national parks, conservation areas of other protected areas of property, or if they are on or in listed buildings, monuments or sites of special scientific interest.

The DCLG has also said that it will allow retailers to make changes to their "back of house loading bay capacity" to cater for the additional demand from 'click and collect' or home delivery service customers without the need for new planning consent, subject to a number of limitations.

Under those plans, retailers will be permitted to install new loading bay doors and new loading ramps in existing shops without the need for planning consent, provided the exiting loading bay area does not increase by more than 20% in size.

"Greater online access has led to a rapid increase in online shopping as a viable alternative to traditional high street shopping," the DCLG said. "To facilitate this shift in purchasing behaviour some retailers want to find ways to adapt their existing premises so that they can be used more effectively to distribute online purchases, including more home delivery services and through ‘click and collect’ services (where consumers collect goods which have been purchased online at locally designated stores). There is an opportunity to help retailers with a physical presence to improve their consumer offer and attract people back to the high street."