Following the Government’s response to the consultation it launched in October last year, the Town and Country Planning Regulations 2019 are now in effect. The majority of the Government’s proposals, which aim to support the high street and increase the delivery of new homes, were implemented on 25th May 2019.
Permitted Development rights (“PD Rights”) are a form of planning permission that allow for certain changes of use and building works to be carried out without the need to apply for planning permission. The changes to PD Rights aim to ease the pressure on the declining high street and help to deliver the Government’s promise on housing delivery.
The Government has given its support to some key changes:
- Change of Use
The Government has introduced a new class of permitted development – Class JA. This class allows retail, payday loan shops, hot food takeaways, betting shops and laundrettes to convert to offices provided the premises were in their pre-existing use prior to 29 October 2018 and no more than 500sqm of floor space is changing use.
Those who want to widen the pool of potential occupiers in high street units will welcome the change, but critics point to the risk that new PD rights might reduce the vibrancy on the high street if offices spring up in place of retail.
Additionally, although less than half of the consultee responses supported it, a PD Right for takeaways to convert to homes has been brought forward. Concerns were expressed that the introduction of housing in areas planned for a night-time economy would be an unwise development, but the demand for housing has taken precedence.
- Simplifying Use Class A
Use Class A covers a broad range of uses and the Government has agreed to amend the shops use class to ensure it captures current and future retail models, which will include clarification on the scope of the A use classes. The demand for retail space to be more than just shopping and offer ancillary uses like entertainment or dining is increasing and the Government has acknowledged that the demand for a versatile high street means it should update Use Class A to allow high street occupiers to utilise PD Rights to innovate their offering.
- Extending temporary change of use
A right to temporarily change the use of buildings to certain community uses (for example, art galleries, theatres, places of worship) already existed but it was limited to two years. This right has been extended from two years to three. The intention is to fight the decline of the high street and avoid vacant units appearing, but also to allow temporary uses enough time to test the market before an application for change of use becomes necessary.
- A removal of the call box right
Previously a PD Right existed for the installation of public phone boxes, which also came with a deemed consent to display advertisements within on them. The Government has excluded the installation, alteration or replacement of public call boxes from Class A. The concern was, in a world where everyone has a mobile phone and phone box use is on the decline, the motivation to install new phone boxes is actually to create advertising space which is leading to increased ‘street clutter’.
- Electric Vehicle Charging Points
The Government has also amended existing rights to install electric vehicle charging points. The amendment allows for an increase in height (up to 2.3 metres from 1.6m) of electrical upstands which recharge electric vehicles. This increase is only permitted outside of the curtilage of a residential area to support targets for tackling fuel emissions.
- A new right to build upwards
One of the rights which was discussed in the consultation which has not yet been brought forward is the introduction of a new right to build upwards.
The Government has confirmed support in principle for a new PD Right to extend certain commercial and residential buildings upwards to deliver new homes, but it will address the detail of this in a further package of regulations in autumn 2019.
The consultee responses last year were wide ranging in their concerns, which included health and safety, structural impacts, protection of the skyline and the challenge of bringing together commercial and residential uses in close quarters. However, the demand for housing and a shortage of viable land for development seems to have persuaded the Government to support these changes.
The Government has recognised that designing a permitted development right to build upwards is complex and we are yet to have insight on the detail of the proposed new right.
It would seem that developers can expect increased opportunities to develop new homes upwards in the future, but until the detail of the new right is known, it is too soon to judge the impact of it.
The new PD Rights will be welcomed by those looking to expand their pool of potential occupiers, and by occupiers who want to diversify their offering, but critics will be concerned about a compromise of the high street mix that could ultimately prejudice vitality.