The government has recently launched a new consultation on proposals to introduce further permitted development rights to allow businesses operating in the new E use class (commercial, business and services) to change to residential use without the need for planning permission. These proposals are aimed at supporting the economic future of high streets and town centres following continued rapid changes in consumer behaviour, which pose ever-increasing challenges to retailers and service providers.
In September, the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, which introduced a new use class which incorporates commercial, business and service uses. The new E use class provides greater flexibility for businesses, typically found on the high street, to change between uses within the same use class, without the need for planning permission.
The government is now looking at going one step further, and introducing further permitted development rights allowing any business within the E use class to switch to residential use (subject to prior approval). This would mean that shops, cafes, restaurants etc. would all be able change to residential use without applying for planning permission for a change of use.
If the proposals are adopted, prior approval will still be needed from the local planning authority before implementing the change of use. The consultation proposes that the prior approval process will cover issues such as flooding, transport/access, contamination, noise impact, adequate natural light and fire safety. Alongside the matters considered at the prior approval stage, any new homes would also need to meet building regulations requirements and nationally described space standards.
The introduction of such sweeping permitted development rights clearly demonstrates the Government's increasing concern for the future of our high streets. If the proposals are implemented, commercial property owners, landlords and investors will no doubt consider very carefully whether greater profits could be realised from conversion to residential properties.
The consultation will run until 28 January 2021. If you would like to comment/respond, you can do so here.