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17 December 2018

Planning reform: helping the high street

The Government has published a consultation document on proposed planning reforms to support the high street and to increase the delivery of new homes. The consultation is open until 14 January 2019. 

We summarise the key proposals below.

Permitted development rights

The Government proposes the following new permitted development rights whereby planning permission would not be required.

  • The right for certain retail uses (A1 / A2 / A5), betting shops, pay day loan shops and launderettes to change to office use (B1). Hot food takeaways (A5) would be allowed to change to residential use (C3), as is already the case with the other uses listed in this paragraph. Whilst a full planning application would not be needed, a more limited application for prior approval from the local planning authority would be required. A local authority may only consider matters set out in the General Permitted Development Order when determining an application for prior approval - the Government is seeking views on the scope of this.
  • A right to add additional storeys to certain buildings, including those in commercial or residential use, to create new homes, subject to limitations and an extended prior approval provision.

The Government is also seeking views on the feasibility of a new right to demolish commercial buildings and rebuild them as residential, to facilitate higher density development.

Changes to the following existing permitted development rights are proposed.

  • An extension of the existing right for the temporary change of use from certain retail uses (A1/A2/A3/A5), offices (B1), non-residential institutions (D1), assembly and leisure uses (D2), betting shops and pay day loan shops to retail (A1/A2/A3) or offices (B1). Currently, this change is allowed for up to 2 years and the proposal is to extend it to 3 years. Under the proposed reforms, these premises would also be allowed to change to certain community uses (public library, exhibition hall, museum, clinic or health centre).
  • Removal of the existing right to install public call boxes in recognition that there is already an existing public telephone network in place. Deemed consent allowing an advertisement to be placed on telephone boxes is also being reconsidered.
  • To provide more flexibility for the height of upstands for recharging electric vehicles to accommodate recent improvements in technology.

Views are sought as to whether time-limited permitted development rights for change of use from storage or distribution to residential and larger single storey rear extensions to houses should be made permanent. Both rights will currently cease to have effect in 2019.

Use Classes Order

The Government seeks views on replacing the current named A1 uses with a broader definition of uses for the sale, display or service to visiting members of the public.

Alternatively, it proposes that the existing A1, A2 and A3 uses could be combined such that movement between those uses would not require planning permission. This acknowledges that premises on the high street are often in more than one use (for example, a premises may be a bookshop and a café).

These proposals in part reflect the desire to increase flexibility and provide as much help as possible to high street premises which are struggling to attract customers. They are therefore likely to be supported but some local authorities may be concerned at the further erosion of their ability to control an appropriate range of uses in town centres.

The potential right to add on storeys and to demolish and rebuild commercial premises for new homes will be controversial.  However, the widening of prior approval obligations in respect of such rights could provide authorities with considerable scope for objection.


This article was written by Lydia O'Hagan. For more information please contact Lydia on lydia.ohagan@crsblaw.com or +44 (0)20 7427 6533.

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