Autumn Budget: The revival of High Streets?

Posted by Keith Lancaster, 31st October 2018
On Monday 29th October the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, presented the Autumn Budget. The general theme of the Budget was an end to austerity and an increase in public spending although this only briefly touched on planning reform.

Mr Hammond announced that he was creating a £675 million fund to help councils transform their high streets. The aim is for part of this money to be used in turning unused high street shops or commercial buildings into homes to not only facilitate the redevelopment of under-used retail and commercial areas and but also to increase the government’s provision of housing. The government hopes that this will not only fill the ever emptying high streets but also provide much needed footfall to other high street businesses.

As part of this process the government have released a consultation paper proposing reforms to the planning system to simplify the process of converting commercial buildings into homes here.

The consultation paper proposes new permitted development rights to allow greater flexibility for change of use from typical high street uses to a wider range of uses, such as gyms, libraries and houses; use of the airspace above existing buildings for additional new homes and extensions; make permanent the time-limited rights for the change of use from storage or distribution to residential use, and for larger single storey rear extensions to houses. In addition, the government wants to explore the feasibility of a new right to allow for the demolition of existing commercial buildings for redevelopment as residential.

Permitted development rights aim to provide a more streamlined planning process and greater certainty for developers/owners. The permitted development right proposed by the government would allow shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), hot food takeaways (A5), betting shops, pay day loan shops and laundrettes to change to office use (B1) without the need for obtaining planning permission. It is also proposed to allow hot food takeaways (A5) to change to residential use (C3) as a permitted development right.

As well as the proposed permitted development rights for permanent changes of use, the government have also proposed a number of rights regarding the temporary change of use in a bid to encourage start-up businesses. The permitted development right proposed by the government would allow the temporary change of use of shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), hot food takeaways (A5), offices (b1), non-residential institutions (D1), assembly and leisure uses (D2), betting shops, pay day loan shops and laundrettes to change to shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3), and office use (B1) for up to 2 years.

As for the Use Classes Order the government are welcoming views on how the A1 use class could be simplified to ensure that it accommodates new and future business models as well as modern shopping preferences. They go further to suggest that the new A1 class could provide a mix of uses within different use classes beyond what is considered ancillary in support of the diversification of the high street.

Opposition opinion is that the relaxation of planning regulations is likely to result in creating “some of the most appalling housing in the country and only benefit rogue landlords”.

The public consultation will close on 14 January 2019.

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