Last month Nick Boles, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Planning, unveiled the Government’s new, streamlined approach to planning policy in a bid to encourage development and regeneration. The Government proposals outline two ways in which planning laws can be changed to promote a simpler and more effective system: simplification of the National Planning Policy Framework and for permitted development rights, which allows disused office buildings to be converted into residential, to be extended to plots previously allocated as either retail or agricultural use.
With the National Planning Policy Framework being reduced from 1,000 pages to less than 50, the benefits to development are clear. By making planning laws more accessible to everyone, those who may have been daunted by the task of development may feel more at ease with traversing the complicated world of development bureaucracy that the Coalition says is hampering change. By stopping planning and development opportunities from being “the preserve of technocrats, lawyers and council officers” Nick Boles stipulates that businesses and individuals can start implementing the development of their town and because they have an interest in their local area other than simply profit, regeneration and community benefit can be prevalent throughout the planning process.
The most interesting part of the announcement today from Mr. Boles however is regarding the extension of permitted development rights. In places like Croydon permitted development is being utilised to deal with the increased housing pressures in the borough, as well as the permanently vacant buildings suffocating the town. Jason Perry, Croydon’s cabinet member for planning has previously said “A lot of the office stock we have is out of date, People don’t want to use it. Buildings built decades ago were fit for purpose at the time, but things change”. Mark Glatman, the Chief Executive of Abstract Group has been part of the permitted development revival of Croydon office buildings and has noted that “With Croydon’s knackered old buildings you can either do one of two things – knock them down or bring them back into use in a way that works… Converting them into housing means more people live in the centre of the Croydon, and that creates a greater emphasis on developing other facilities too”. This typifies the kind of response that the Government believes it can achieve with its increased scope of permitted development rights, with regeneration and growth for the local area a hopeful by-product.
The extension of PD rights includes making the change of use for under-used shops easier to “breathe life into areas that are declining due to changing shopping habits”. By allowing shops (A1) and financial services (A2) to have their uses changed to housing (C3) in close proximity to town centres, the government’s aim is to increase footfall to reinvigorate and redefine the ailing town centres and main high streets. Businesses should be keen to have fresh consumers to demand their services and a dynamic character can return to the empty and beleaguered sectors of town centres, while redefining and emboldening the key retail districts.