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Planning regime changes to allow more flexible use of buildings

Recent changes to the planning system introduce further changes to permitted development and the ‘Use Classes Order’ to allow greater flexibility in changing between uses and to provide more offices and homes

These recent changes – which came into force at the end of May – are intended to address such issues. Time will tell how effective these changes will be.

The Government initially implemented Permitted Development Rights (PDR) to make it relatively simple to convert office space into residential accommodation, and now it has made further changes which allow premises used as shops, for financial and professional services, or as hot food takeaways, betting shops, pay day loan shop and launderettes to change use to offices.

The Government has sought to widen the use of PDR in an attempt to support the High Streets of many of our towns.

With the vacation of retail space it is important that the vitality and viability of affected areas is maintained by providing legislation that allows the introduction of other suitable uses to retain footfall and avoid dead frontages.

One of the unintended consequences of PDR was that some local businesses lost their offices to residential conversion, forcing them to go in search of new ones.

The PDR regulations have also had implications for residents and councils. Across the country an estimated 32,000 new homes have been created by converting office accommodation to residential but 90% of those are without any amenity space for residents.

Many councils have challenged the PDR changes and sought to protect their existing offices from redevelopment for residential.

They have also argued that because the owners don’t have to make any Section 106 contribution when converting the property, the local authorities lose
the business rate revenue and at the same time bear all of the burden of the increased population, making it difficult to sustain local services.