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DCLG reveals ‘big brother’ of office-to-resi

A new consultation by the DCLG has left the door open for a raft of building types to be converted into housing without the need for full planning permission

Theatres, warehouses, casinos and ‘light industrial’ buildings could be converted into housing without full planning permission as part of rule changes put out to consultation by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The proposals include a raft of measures that build on the temporary granting of permitted-development rights for the conversion of offices to homes – the so called ‘office-to-resi’ phenomenon - that came into effect in May last year.

The Technical Consultation on Planning also promotes a relaxation on change-of-use between retail, leisure and food categories as part of a bid to boost town-centre vitality.

Other measures include reducing the consultation period for the creation of community-generated Neighbourhood Plans, and new rules on councils’ imposition of planning conditions that would enable construction to start on-site more quickly after permission is granted.

New housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said the planning system had become ‘convoluted, confusing, expensive and in many cases ineffective’ and that the government was committed to further reforming it.

‘We can build on our progress in expanding permitted development and help people to make the best use of existing buildings,’ he said.

‘So we are proposing practical improvements that build on earlier reforms, to help more people benefit and, overall, help us get the development and housing our future growth depends upon.’

Peter Morris, of Peter Morris Architects, said the permitted-development proposals were a sign ministers were listening to architects.

‘Their intention to reduce planning restrictions to support housing, high streets and growth is absolutely the right thing to do at the moment,’ he said.

‘Planning policy is too slow for modern urban life: regulations need to be more flexible to allow architects to do what we do best - design clever buildings for working, living and playing according to the need.’

However Morris said he feared reducing consultation times on neighbourhood plan proposals was ‘a move backwards’ as it risked taking away the right of local people to engage with the documents.

British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said the proposals were clearly targeted towards dealing with specific obstacles to development in the planning process.

While some of the suggested changes are small, they are also important, and if turned into legislation could make a tangible difference to the system and speed-up much needed development,’ she said.

The consultation is open until September 26.

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