The Westminster Government has today confirmed plans to further deregulate the planning system by proceeding with proposals to allow commercial properties to be converted into homes. This is part of a package of measures announced which the government argues will revitalise high street. Not only will the new measure strip powers from local government to shape the future of their local area, it also risks high streets being defined by poor quality housing.
Despite widespread condemnation by business, environmental and heritage organisations the government has pressed ahead with the plans it consulted on earlier this year to allow a free for all where buildings can be converted into a range of users, including light industrial, without the need for full planning permission. The government’s announcement confirms some minimal standards will apply to conversions but despite the current emphasis on high quality design, design cannot be considered. And neither can vital issue such as the availability of play space, key social facilities, zero carbon or human health
Responding to the announcement, the Town and Country Planning Association’s Director of Policy, Dr. Hugh Ellis, stated:
“This move risks being a disaster for our high streets, for local democracy and for the future of decent housing. The government has ignored the evidence it commissioned which pointed to the shockingly poor outcomes that existing permitted development has delivered and at one stroke undermined local authority plans for the comprehensive redevelopment of towns and city centres.
We know there is a need for more homes, and to revitalise town centres and high streets. But this is absolutely not the way to achieve it. We need compact, healthy communities but they also need to meet a range of people’s needs and support a transition to a zero-carbon future. This new expansion of permitted development rights undermines local councils and the views of communities, and risks high streets dominated by poor quality homes and not much else.”
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