In December 2020 The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation on measures to support housing delivery and the provision of public service infrastructure.
Since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the high street, amongst other areas of the economy, has suffered enormous and irreparable damage and many businesses have closed their doors permanently.
The government’s new ‘Class E’ introduction on 1 September 2020 was an opportunity to allow a change of use from Commercial, Business and Service use (new Class E) to residential (Class C3). The intention was to deliver new housing in sustainable town centre locations while reusing redundant retail and commercial space. This permitted development right will be subject to prior approval of the local planning authority. These proposed rights apply in conservation areas and do not envisage a size limit on buildings which can benefit from these changes.
The MHCLG consultation looked at various areas of the development and its related processes including:
Response to the consultation
- an amended permitted development right for the extension of schools, colleges, universities and hospitals, to support the faster delivery of schools and hospitals and other public infrastructure improvements;
- faster decisions on applications for planning permission: for relevant planning applications, the statutory period for determination would be reduced from 13 weeks to 10 weeks;
- existing permitted development rights to be consolidated and simplified;
- national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other sensitive sites would continue to be excluded from permitted development rights but unlike existing rights, these PDRs would apply in conservation areas.
On 12th February 2021, the government published its briefing paper based on its findings.
There has been quite a lot of criticism on the proposed new permitted development rights and some argue that these might have damaging effects on local democracy and community engagement. There are others who are concerned about the quality of the new homes to be created.
G15 commented ‘ we have concerns about the proposals, as they currently stand, particularly the lack of any reference to the potential contribution the permitted development rights (PDR) route should make towards affordable housing. Furthermore, we are concerned over the impact of a widespread recourse to permitted development rights on the National Planning Policy Framework’s requirement to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places with the mix of housing, amenities, facilities and services a community needs’.
Planning magazine remarked that, from the Government’s perspective, the proposed changes no doubt seemed a “no brainer” and the increased right to convert commercial property to residential use was supported by the Home Builders Federation. But (Planning reported) some planning professionals were expressing concerns, such as reduced control over what happens in town centres, although the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) rejected those criticisms.
It will be interesting to see what steps the government takes following this report which perhaps was faced with more opposition than was anticipated.