BUDGET 2011: Commercial-to-residential planning changes confirmed

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The government has confirmed it will consult on plans to make it easier for property owners to convert commercial properties to residential.

Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed in his Budget today that the government will look at introducing the system as a way to bring forward new homes, to address the UK’s housing shortage.

The scheme has already been criticised as, if conversions are allowed without planning consent, this may mean local authorities lose out on the payments to improve community facilities that are forthcoming when planning permission is given.

Roger Tustain, director at Broadway Malyan, said the plans would be damaging if they allow property owners to convert buildings in areas where the council does not think new homes are needed.

“Proposals in today’s Budget to relax control over change of use reinforce the Government’s lack in understanding of the UK planning system and are potentially dangerous. The proposals could lead to isolated communities with no access to transport, schools or other essential community facilities.

“In addition, with the reduced public purse and no planning control, who is going to pay for the increased demand on facilities or the affordable housing requirements that are enforced by the planning system? The proposals are knee jerk like the majority of this government’s strategy on planning.”

Osborne also said he wanted to make sure local authorities give more planning permissions by introducing a presumption in favour of sustainable developments. This would mean developments are given planning permission if they promote sustainable growth in communities.

Ian Tant, senior partner at planning consultant Barton Willmore, said  this would be a challenge to local councillors faced with local opposition to development proposals.

“It is to be hoped that this ’refocussing’ applies equally to the secretary of state when determining appeals, because that will be vital to setting the example for local planning authorities throughout the country,” said Tant.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • We have seen rents halve in Chelmsord and are paying business rates based on twice the current rental on vacant units.We tried to change use of a 500 sft office unit to residential and the council have just started chargeing £6000 for the privilidge.The premises are in a mixed residential and commercial street. Please can we bring some sense into planning and allow a free change of use from B1 ro residential!

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  • can anyone tell me if these new laws have been passed if not when, as this is not my area. I have been told that the commercial property i have will not be given residential planning because it would take business away from area ( a small workshop in a residential area). any response would be greatfully received. jonte

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