A range of planning rules have been axed in a bid to boost high streets by giving business owners greater flexibility, the government has announced.
As part of a package of new measures revealed on Saturday, shops will be able to be converted to office space using permitted development rights.
Temporary development rights on converting shops, offices and betting shops for community use have also now been made permanent.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has also announced the permitted development right to allow single-storey rear extensions to homes, introduced as a temporary measure in 2013, will be made permanent.
However, the government’s initial proposal to allow the building of new homes on top of existing commercial and residential premises without full planning permission has not been adopted, following criticisms it would remove too much control from planning authorities.
High Streets minister Jake Berry MP said the changes will help to ensure high streets are “fit to thrive” and enable families to “grow without being forced to move”.
The Local Government Association’s planning spokesman Martin Tett (Con) said the right to extend at the rear of properties, which has led to 110,000 extensions being completed since 2014, should be subject to an independent review.
“Permitted development rules are taking away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in, ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place and have resulted in the potential loss of thousands of desperately-needed affordable homes,” he said.
Head of policy at the Royal Town Planning Institute Richard Blyth warned the changes would make the high street “duller and lacking vitality”.
“The problem with reduction of the size of shopping areas through piecemeal changes mean the remaining shops are threatened by dead frontage,” he said.
Mr Blyth also said there was evidence from the permitted development right to convert offices to residential property had shown “shortcuts” had been taken, leading to unacceptably low standards of accommodation.”