The degeneration of the high street has been an ongoing talking point, with much of the blame for the decline being directed at the continuing rise of the shopping centre and internet shopping. Boarded up shop units continue to be a common sight in the high street of many UK towns and the Government is keen to ensure these areas are regenerated, bringing empty retail units back into use and increasing housing supply. At the same time, they have also been seeking to reduce the red tape that surrounds the planning process and allow greater flexibility of land use.
For these reasons, further permitted development rights (PDR) were introduced last April, with the aim of simplifying the planning process and bringing empty buildings back into use.
Full planning not to be required for retail to residential conversions
The most significant change is to allow shops designated for retail, financial or professional service use to be converted to a single house or building containing up to 4 flats with an upper size limit of 150 m2 without the need for a full planning application. This is subject to a prior approval process but the physical works to change the use to residential will not require planning permission. Prior approval for office to residential has been relatively straightforward. The process for retail to residential may be harder as the authority is able to consider the impact of loss of retail on the town centre and effect of change of use on local character of area. Nevertheless it is hoped that the new PDR will encourage developers to transform run down retail premises with limited value into sought after residential areas. Shrewd investors will need to keep up to speed with the changes.
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