- August 19, 2020
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Associate director Jonny Grove outlines the Governments proposed overhaul of the planning system, as well as the impending shake up of the ‘Use Classes Order’, all with a view to cut red tape as we emerge into a Post Covid economy.
Planning for change
The Governments new planning white paper ‘Planning for the future’ published on the 6th August, sets out far reaching and major reforms to the planning system.
One of the key drivers in terms of the changes will be a greater input from local communities including a greater use of technology to allow wider consultation in relation to local plans.
Developer contributions to affordable housing will be replaced with a new levy on housing development. This will be a fixed proportion of the value of the development. Revenues will be then allocated to infrastructure projects and affordable housing in the locality.
The planning system itself is due to be overhauled with a ‘clear rules-based approach’ including new zoning which categorises land into ‘protected areas’ ‘renewal areas’ and ‘development areas’.
Development areas would benefit from automatic outline approval for certain types of development as identified within the local plan. Local plans themselves are due to be replaced to reflect the zone-based structure. The plans should now be agreed in the reduced timeframe of 30 months.
Greenbelt protection continues, and development of brownfield sites will be encouraged, along with an increased focus on beauty and green space with a ‘fast-track’ system for beautiful buildings. Changes to design guidance, includes all new streets to be tree lined. The target has also been set that all new homes will be carbon neutral by 2050.
The full effect of the proposals is yet to be appreciated. Replacing ‘Section 106’ which currently delivers over half of all affordable homes, could have serious implications for affordable housing targets. It will therefore be essential that funding generated by the new Levy is ringfenced to protect this delivery.
Permitted development to reach new heights
In addition to the high-level changes to planning, the government has broadened permitted development to allow for the construction of additional storeys on some buildings along with demolition and redevelopment of blocks of flats and some commercial premises for new residential use.
Developers and investors will therefore benefit from increased opportunities to create additional residential accommodation without the need to obtain planning permission.
- Class AA – enlargement of a dwellinghouse by the construction of additional storeys
- Class AA – new dwellinghouses on detached buildings in commercial or mixed use
- Class AB – new dwellinghouses on terrace buildings in commercial or mixed use
- Class AC – new dwellinghouses on terrace buildings in use as dwellinghouses
- Class AD – new dwellings on detached buildings in use as dwellinghouses
The creation of flats over existing commercial premises or blocks of flats created on the site of previous commercial premises could certainly prove at least part of the solution for re-purposing the oversupply of town centre commercial property.
Changes to permitted development will only apply to existing dwellings constructed between 1st July 1948 and 28th October 2018. It should also be noted that permission is subject to conditions and limitations including prior approval of the local authority for various detailed matters, is subject to an overall restriction on the increase in height and on the maximum floor to ceiling height.
All change for the Use Classes Order
The Town & Country Planning (use classes) (amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 (2020 No.757) comes into force on 31st August 2020 and sees the largest overhaul of the order since its introduction in 1987.
The government shakeup includes the introduction of a new ‘Class E’ (Commercial Business & Service. This new class of use includes elements of the following historic classes:
- A1 Retail
- A2 Financial & Professional
- A3 Restaurant
- B1 Offices
- D1 (Part) Crèches, day nurseries
- D2 (Part) Medical health facilities
Protection of town centre retail has appeared to be an outdated policy for some time, and not in line with demand. Lending on retail properties in particular has been limited for some time as Banks recognise the reduced demand for this stock reflected in the declining value of retail portfolios. The introduction of ‘Class E’ will allow the flexibility to change to a range of non-retail alternative uses , in turn allowing town centres to consolidate their retail offering to a more central high street. Town centre retail properties may once again become a more attractive proposition for investors with this new flexibility to meet market demand.
The change will also allow retail use for some traditional out of town office locations. This has been previously resisted in order to protect the town centres. A landlord’s willingness to effect this change will inevitably hinge on the demand and supply of office accommodation in the locality. Overall, the flexibility for Landlords to respond to rapidly changing market demands should be welcomed.
The governments explanatory memorandum is available at : https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/757/pdfs/uksiem_20200757_en.pdf and explains that:
“the government considers that it requires a complete overhaul to better reflect the diversity of uses found on high streets and in town centres and to provide the flexibility for businesses to adapt and diversify to meet changing demands. This is particularly important at the present time as town centres seek to recover from the economic impact of Coronavirus. Modern high streets and town centres have changed so that they now seek to provide a wider range of facilities and services, including new emerging uses, that will attract people and make these areas viable now and in the future”.
In addition to the introduction of ‘Class E’, further amendments include Class F.1 ‘Learning and Non-Residential Institutions’ and Class F.2 ‘Local Community’ both of which subsume some historic elements of classes D1 and D2.
F1 offers protection to learning institutions such as Schools, Libraries and Art Galleries whilst the drive of the introduction of F.2 is in order to allow the easy re-purposing of community resources to a diverse range of alternative community uses. Though it remains to be seen how easily a facility could be adapted between the diverse range of uses listed within the class.
Sui generis (of its own kind) has been expanded to include some traditional ‘Bad Neighbour’ uses such as Pubs and Hot Food Takeaways with no permitted change of use. This appears to be driven in terms of protecting these community amenities as we emerge into a post covid economy, ensuring any changes to these uses requires planning permission. This restricts a change of use for premises such as pubs, wine bars, takeaways, cinemas, concert and dance halls and bingo halls.
In combination, these changes represent the most fundamental change to in town centre planning we have seen in recent times and will present interesting challenges to the industry. Rent reviews for instance, may now involve comparable evidence from several commercial sectors. We will certainly see differing effects across geographic areas potentially including reduced vacancy rates yet possibly at the expense of reduced amenity as sectors are forced to compete for prime space with offices and restaurants.
We hope that the increased flexibility, and ‘let the market decide’ approach will drive investment within our town centres and high street locations. CS2s independent building surveying and cost consultancy teams look forward to the inevitable feasibility studies and design & specification work required to assist our clients in both the viability and delivery of these new opportunities.
If you require any further advice on your commercial property or would like to speak to one of our experts on this subject, please contact Jonathon Grove on email@example.com / 01604 603030.
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 will come into force on 31st August 2020.