The government’s aim is to make use of empty and underused buildings at reduced cost. New permitted development rights will enable offices to be converted to homes.
The changes also support the implementation of recommendations from the Mary Portas high street review to reduce restrictive ‘change of use’ red tape by allowing buildings to be used for other purposes.
Secondary legislation was laid in Parliament yesterday to amend the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995. The statutory instruments come into force on 30 May 2013.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “There is huge untapped potential in the many disused existing buildings we have and we’re determined that every one of them is put to good use. By simplifying the process and relaxing some stringent rules we can provide a helping hand to those eager to boost their high streets or rural communities by cutting the time and costs needed to start up new businesses.
“These reforms will provide a boost to the exciting free schools programme. It will make it easier for parents and community activists to convert buildings into new schools.
“We’re also providing a great opportunity for outdated, redundant or underused offices to be brought back to life by converting them into homes, protecting the green belt and countryside at the same time. This will also increase footfall and provide knock-on benefits to the wider community.”
Seventeen English local authorities have secured exemptions to the new rules for some or all of their jurisdiction. These are: the City of London and the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington & Chelsea. Other areas are in the borough councils of Vale of the White Horse, Stevenage, Ashford (Kent), the district councils of Sevenoaks and East Hampshire, and Manchester City Council.