The government’s emphasis on housing does not necessarily make the house a home. Last year saw consultation on the Planning White Paper, which proposed changes to the planning system to “finally build the homes we all need”. 

Stuart Tym

Stuart Tym

But how do we enable those housing developments to encourage greater community cohesion while also ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’?

Healthcare, education and green spaces are also vital to creating flourishing communities, as are employment, retail, and logistics provisions. The Planning White Paper was light on all of this – is it a ‘housing’ white paper by another name?

The pandemic continues to impact our high street. Class E consolidates retail and commercial use classes together with some community uses. It is intended to give the high street the flexibility it needs to recover, as changing between these uses no longer requires planning permission. But is this the freedom the market needs? Too much flexibility may fail at ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’, and may create high streets that are incompatible with neighbouring uses.

Will a proposed permitted development right from Class E to residential provide landlords with a much-needed cash injection? The impact of the proposed rights extends far beyond the traditional high street, applying to the vast majority of offices, dentists, GP surgeries, retail parks, business parks, gyms, nurseries, and light industrial units. This could have a devastating and lasting impact on any business, industrial or retail district, losing vital services and leaving those much-needed homes in the wrong place.

There is a clear conflict between the duty to plan for a balance of uses, the introduction of Class E and the heavy emphasis on housing in the Planning White Paper. Town-centre-first policies for retail and offices are now largely unenforceable following the introduction of Class E. Without successful employment and leisure areas, and with too much emphasis on housing alone, we risk creating one big suburb with no facilities or community left.

Stuart Tym is a senior associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell