A tweak to the government’s plan to liberalise planning rules for the conversion of shops into homes has been welcomed by councils.
The LGA said the consultation published by the Department for Communities & Local Government on Tuesday showed officials and ministers had listened to local authority concerns.
Under the revised plans, conversions of shops into houses would need “prior approval” from a council. When deciding whether to grant this prior approval, the local authority could take into account “design, the potential impact of the loss of the retail unit on the economic health of the town centre, the need to maintain an adequate provision of essential local services such as post offices, and the potential impact of the change of use on the character of the local area”.
However, if a council failed to respond to a developer’s application within a certain time period, planning permission would automatically be granted.
The department’s consultation said: “This will allow the local authority to have regard to their local plan policies for the area.”
Mike Jones (Con), chairman of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: “The government’s proposal for a system of prior approvals shows that it has at least listened to councils’ anxieties about the long-term damage that a complete developers’ free-for-all may have done to our high streets.
“Local authorities now want to work with government to ensure that this new process protects people’s right to have a say on development and does not add a whole new complex layer of confusing bureaucracy into the planning system.”
The consultation closes on 15 October.