// Rules allowing commercial premises in England to be converted into homes come into force
// The aim of the new planning laws is to revitalise high streets & town centres ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic
// Recent data from Local Data Company suggest up to 18,000 more shops, restaurants & leisure outlets could be left vacant this year
New rules allowing commercial premises in England to be converted into homes are to come into force, in a bid by the government to revitalise high streets and towns centres.
The new planning laws, announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and introduced today, mean full planning applications will not be required and the homes will instead be delivered through a prior approval process.
The package will also introduce a “fast track” for extending public buildings, such as schools, colleges and hospitals, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
- Another 18,000 shops may permanently close their doors this year
- Covid-19 pandemic drives record number of stores shutting down in 2020
- The state of UK retail one year after the first lockdown
Public buildings are currently able to have small extensions without the need for full planning application but, under new rules, they can extend further and faster with a more streamlined planning process.
Recent data from the Local Data Company (LDC) revealed that up to 18,000 more shops, restaurants and leisure outlets could be left vacant this year as high streets and shopping centres grapple with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the collapse of major retailers including Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.
LDC said this would be much worse than 2020, when 11,000 high street businesses closed their doors for good across England, Wales and Scotland.
Of that total, 9877 were retail units operated by chains – a record number – and 1442 were independent shops, restaurants and leisure venues.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said converting unused commercial buildings into homes would encourage more people to live near high streets and come into the area for work and leisure.
It also insisted that new homes would be subject to high standards, ensuring that they provide adequate natural light and meet space standards.
“We are creating the most small business friendly planning system in the world to provide the flexibility needed for high streets to bounce back from the pandemic,” Jenrick said.
“By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.”
The government has also announced changes to permitted development right regulations, to ensure the demolition of unlisted heritage assets – such as statues, memorials and monuments – is subject to planning decisions.
Other measures include the amendment of existing permitted development rights for ports, so that they have the same freedoms as airports for undertaking development.
with PA Wires