Prime Minister announces planning permission shake-up

Date published: 14 July 2020

New regulations to allow a building’s change of use without applying for planning permission have been announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Under the new rules, which are expected to come into effect by September through changes to the law, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops and redundant buildings, can be converted into residential housing more easily.

Developers will still need to adhere to high standards and regulations, just without the unnecessary red tape.

The changes include:

  • More types of commercial premises having total flexibility to be repurposed through reform of the Use Classes Order. A building used for retail, for instance, would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval. Pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of uses essential to the lifeblood of communities will not be covered by these flexibilities.
  • A wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application.
  • Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.
  • Property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation.

These changes are expected to support the high street revival by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed, as well as reducing the pressure to build on green field land by making brownfield development easier.

John Blundell, cabinet member for regeneration, business, skills & employment ay Rochdale Borough Council, said: “We’re working on a regeneration strategy for the borough which priorities the creation of thousands of new homes, particularly through re-use of vacant brownfield land and buildings within town centres and around rail stations.

“Examples of this include the Heritage Action Zone project, where we’ve offered building grants to support the redevelopment of vacant properties, around Rochdale town centre into housing.

“But while we support any move which helps bring vacant properties back into use, what we need is responsible development; that is homes built to a high standard in sustainable locations which meet the needs of our residents. We would be interested to see the detail behind this policy to understand how the new regulations will support this. What nobody wants is a free for all”. 

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