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In July of this year, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched a wide-ranging technical consultation on planning.
The consultation proposes a controversial expansion of the office to residential permitted development rights and the introduction of a permitted change of use from light industrial and storage and distribution to residential.
Other permitted development rights are proposed to benefit the High Street and allow more minor changes without the burden of a planning application.
The consultation proposes making the current temporary right to change use from offices to residential, a permanent right from May 2016 (the date the temporary right is due to expire).
Areas that were exempt from the temporary right (such as the Central Activities Zone in London) would lose their exemption.
Instead, it is proposed that the prior approval process will be widened so that Councils can consider the potential loss of strategically important office accommodation when deciding whether or not to give prior approval.
The government proposes to help increase housing supply by extending permitted development rights to allow light industrial (Class B1(c)) and storage and distribution buildings (Class B8) to change to residential use.
As with the existing office to residential change of use, this is proposed to be subject to the authority's prior approval in relation to flooding, transport and contamination, but additionally in relation to noise.
The consultation asks whether the right should be subject to a floorspace limit and whether it should be extended to national parks, conservation areas and/or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
It is also proposed that certain sui generis uses on the high street (laundrettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs) should be permitted to change to residential. Again, any change of use would be subject to the authority's prior approval relating to flooding, transport and contamination (but not noise).
The consultation proposes removing financial services (ie banks and building societies), professional services, estate agents and employment agencies out of Class A2 and into Class A1. This will allow more changes of use to take place without the need for planning permission (changes within Class A1 do not require permission).
Under the proposals, betting shops and payday lenders will remain within Class A2 and the ability to change to such Class A2 uses without planning permission will be limited.
The consultation contains the following proposed changes:
Local planning authorities can remove permitted development rights by making an Article 4 Direction. The consultation proposes that Article 4 Directions should not remove the right to develop where prior approval has been given but the development has not yet commenced.
The government is also seeking views on whether the permitted development rights set out in the consultation should be subject to compensation in the event they are removed by a Direction.
Further widening of permitted development rights (particularly the removal of the exempted areas for office to residential change of use) is controversial with local planning authorities, as it undermines their ability to control development and retain employment and runs counter to the principle of localism much trumpeted by the government.
The government's commitment to pushing through the change will be tested, particularly in light of next year's elections.
The changes also further blur the boundary between permitted development and planning application. In particular, the introduction of strategic planning considerations into the prior approval process brings issues of policy into permitted development.
We also see no planning reason why only immediate neighbours should have the right to express concern on the impact on amenity of new restaurants and cafes in their communities.
This article was written by Claire Fallows.
For more information please contact Claire on +44 (0)20 7427 1046 or firstname.lastname@example.org