On the 6th August 2013, the Government set out its intention to increase the flexibility to allow the change of use of existing retail units (Class A1 and A2 units) to create new residential dwellings through amendments to permitted development rights. This intention has been set out in the consultation document titled ‘Greater flexibilities for change of use’.
The Government is proposing to allow the change of use of Class A1 shops and Class A2 professional services to housing. The Government has indicated that this increased flexibility would apply to units that are no longer viable and have suggested that this would mainly apply to secondary locations away from the main retail area. The proposed change to permitted rights to allow this flexibility has been driven by a need to effectively use existing buildings that have been blighted by a changing retail market and the need to significantly increase the supply of housing.
The prior approval process, whilst more streamlined compared with the planning application route, would require consideration and assessment of:
- Design to ensure that physical development complies with local plan policies on design, material types and outlook;
- The potential impact of the loss of the retail unit on the economic health of the town centre;
- The need to maintain an adequate provision of essential local services such as post offices; and
- The potential impact of the change of use on the character of the local area.
The Government has also suggested a number of other limitations to this proposed amendment to permitted development rights. These include:
- Setting an upper threshold of 150 sq m;
- Allow conversion to a single dwelling house or a maximum of four flats, but not a small HMO;
- Enable the external modifications sufficient to allow for the conversion to residential use;
- Will not apply in areas such as conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage sites.