Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed new planning rules allowing the conversion of a vast array of high street premises into housing without planning permission. The measures will be brought in sooner than previously thought to help small businesses and high streets ‘bounce back from the pandemic’.
The new rules create a fast-track system under which unused commercial buildings will have permitted development to be converted into homes. Councils can only turn down applications on limited grounds, including flood risk, noise pollution and inadequate natural light, although any new homes created will also have to meet national space standards.
The system coming into force on 21 April is a modification on a previous proposal set out before Christmas, which drew criticism from the industry. The earlier proposal did not limit the size of the property, however, the revised rights are limited to premises of 1500sqm or less. Conservation areas, health centres and nurseries will also have protections, although they won’t be exempt.
Jenrick states that ‘By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.’
Developers will be able to submit prior approval applications for conversion to residential on 1 August.