Planners call for developers to continue to need planning permission for retail conversions

Planners are calling on the Government to drop proposals that would add homes to High Streets without developers having to apply for planning permission.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has written to Housing and Planning Minister Kit Malthouse saying that homes converted from retail premises will not help in the quest for more affordable properties being made available.

The Government is proposing to add new Permitted Development Rights (PDRs), notably to convert High Street outlets to offices, and takeaways to offices or homes as well as allowing extra storeys on existing buildings and demolishing and redeveloping commercial premises for residential use.

In a letter to the Minister and more than 40 MPs, the RTPI points out that housing converted from retail and other high street premises via PDRs have little impact on providing affordable homes.

It argues that dead frontages on High Streets, many of which are already in decline, would diminish their community role, damage their character irretrievably and kill off pedestrian footfall as well as taking away the vitality and viability of a typical High Street.

The letter points out that the RTPI believes that PDRs add further financial pressure on local authorities as they do not generate sufficient planning fees for their processing, and no developer contributions can be collected for affordable housing and infrastructure.

‘Many High Street outlets can already be changed to housing without developers having to apply for planning permission,’ said Victoria Hills, RTPI chief executive.

‘This is increasingly having an insidious effect on town centres that are at the heart of local communities. Rolling out permitted development could sound the death knell for many ailing High Streets, while having little or no impact on creating more affordable homes,’ she explained.

‘Local authorities, business communities and residents must be in the driving seat for shaping the future of their High Streets. No one would argue that we need more affordable homes, or that high streets must adapt with more mixed uses, but change must be part of a planned, local vision,’ she added.

The RTPI is also concerned that housing converted from retail and other High Street premises via PDRs tends to be of poor quality, often with little or no disabled access and added that PDRs are designed for minor built developments or changes of use, not new developments of this scale and importance, which should be subject to full local planning authority.

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