The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has launched a consultation seeking views on whether high street shops could be redeveloped into different uses without planning permission.
The government has asked for views on whether to change permitted development rights, allowing for the adaptation of high street shops, including into homes.
The consultation document reads: “We are proposing new permitted development rights to allow existing premises in typical high street uses to change to a wider range of uses, allowing more leisure and community uses such as gyms, libraries, health care and office use as well as homes.”
Planning law currently allows for the change of office space into residential use without requiring planning permission, and the proposed change outlined in the consultation would extend that right to retail spaces.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors published an analysis in May however, which found that office-to-residential conversions under permitted development had contributed to a “higher number of poor quality housing”.
Dr Ben Clifford at the Bartlett School of Planning said: “The idea of reusing vacant office space as housing is a good one. The way this is currently governed as ‘permitted development’ in England is, however, highly problematic.”
The shadow minister for planning responded to the consultation, saying that the proposals were “hardly the big steps we need to revitalise our high streets”.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (Lab) said: “Instead of deregulating town planning laws – which will only hasten the disappearance of high streets and encourage property speculation – plans should go through a proper planning permission procedure to ensure that local people are able to have a say in how their high streets look and feel.”
The consultation was published simultaneously with the launch of a new £675m fund flagged in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget on Monday which seeks to support councils interested in high street regeneration projects. Councils can bid for funding by submitting proposals which set out a vision for their future high street.