It appears that those over at MHCLG had a busy Friday before heading out for the bank holiday sunshine (if you could find the sun somewhere). The Supporting the High Street and increasing the Delivery of New Homes consultation response and the Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development, Advertisement and Compensation Amendments) (England) Regulations 2019, were both published on the same day.

More homes/offices

Despite the support and opposition being equally balanced for permitting changes from shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), hot food takeaways (A5), betting shops, pay day loan shops and launderettes to change to office use (B1) and then less than half of respondents supporting the proposal for a new permitted development right to allow hot food takeaways to change to homes both changes are brought in and should come into force on 25 May 2019.  

In both cases the change is subject to prior approval and in both cases this makes reference to the change not impacting the adequate provision of services of the sort that may be provided by such a Building or where the building is located in a key shopping area, on the sustainability of that shopping area (i.e. the change does not harm the town centre).

Flexible Use provision

The temporary flexible use is to be extended from 2 to 3 years and now includes Class D1(a) (the provision of any medical or health services except the use of premises attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner), Class D1(d) (the display of works of art (otherwise than for sale or hire)), Class D1(e) (museum), Class D1(f) (public library or public reading room), or Class D1(g) (public hall or exhibition hall). 

This is promoted as encouraging community uses and gives them the ability to test out the town centre market but concern is raised that out of town centres could also benefit and put further strain on the High Streets with which they compete.  Some of the exceptions also put an unusual level of suspicion on the user – a community gallery will ordinarily involve some sale or hire of the art to make money and continue the long term sustainability of the business.

The Town Centre Use Class.

A simplified A1 use class could allow local areas to manage change to create and maintain flourishing high streets, while recognising that retail models continue to evolve.  Simply merging the A1, A2 and A3 use classes would however enable restaurants to change use without any local consideration could see potential impacts from longer opening hours and increased noise and odours.  A continued criticism of the internet shopping era is that the High Street is becoming a clutter of hairdressers, barbers and pubs and restaurants.

More particularly; enabling permanent change here and only temporary change to the “community uses” shows a lack of real confidence in the diverse town centre offering we need to be generating. 

As yet there is nothing drafted on this – could it come about as part of a wider review of the Use Classes Order – more on the need for that here.

Upwards extensions to housing.

The government returns to its idea that one solution to the housing crisis is to keep going up! *comical aside – do you think they read Planning Magazine's article on the planned Old Oak and Park Royal regeneration scheme where the design of the stabling yard and depot was built in a way that means it is not able to support development above it.

More than half of those who responded did not consider that upwards extensions should be delivered through a permitted development right albeit the government note that and conclude they will be going ahead anyway. As Old Oak demonstrates – perhaps it is simply just too complicated.  Concerns concentrated on quality, access and safety, impact on the existing occupiers and neighbours together with technical objections relating to existing telecommunications infrastructure.  

Is this just an accident waiting to happen - ready to create a quirk such as the "hold out buildings" in New York.

From my personal perspective it is another example of a place where proper planning requires details to be fully assessed either through a planning application or at local level in the drafting of an LDO.  It is also clearly an area where perceptions need to change if progress is to be made.  Could the involvement of the government here be in drafting policy to encourage the local level rather than the unintended consequences of a wholesale PD change?

Removing permission for a public call box

In a move rendering Westminster City Council v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government CO/3111/2018 quickly out of date already; 90% supported removing the permitted development right in it's entirety.  Are additional public call boxes just adding to street clutter? There were mixed views from the electronic communications code operators who responded who generally saw the right as useful to help roll out new public call boxes (including the small cell systems that will be required for 5G networks).

Regulations are included to remove the permitted development rights to install, alter or replace additional public call boxes (telephone kiosks) and the associated deemed consent for advertisements. Existing public call boxes will retain the permitted development right for alteration or replacement and where a surface of a public call box has previously been used to display an advertisement it can continue to be used for that purpose.

One things is for sure; Labour are not in favour of further relaxations around PD and so the battle lines between the Opposition and the Government are once again drawn on this issue.  As always, with permitted development right changes we wait to see the law on unintended consequences.