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Relaxation of the planning rules for change of use from business to residential

Date: 5/7/2011

The Planning Officers Society and Local Government Group have submitted a joint response.

The Planning Officers Society and the Local Government (LG) Group agree that there is a pressing need for additional residential development in many areas. Local authorities balance this need with the importance of promoting economic development through the planning system. Crucially the current system allows for local people and their elected representatives to shape their area according to local needs and priorities.

POS and LG Group are not aware of any evidence that the planning system is causing undue delay or obstruction to change of use. Evidence we have received from our members suggests that applications for change of use are overwhelmingly approved with important conditions attached to ensure that adverse affects are mitigated and the development is both viable and sustainable. This suggests that the principal cause of reduced house building rates is market rather than planning related.

POS and the LG Group consider that the government's stated objective of increasing availability of housing could be more effectively achieved through better use of existing tools and policy instruments. We outline the role of the current system in mitigating undesirable impacts from change of use and suggest alternative mechanisms the government may wish to pursue in this section. We believe these alternate mechanisms would achieve similar outcomes but retain the opportunity for local people and their elected representatives to shape their local area rather than imposing blanket national requirements.

Specifically, we propose that the government should seek to enact change through the following mechanisms:

  • A strong policy steer in the National Planning Policy Framework infavour of change of use.
  • Encouraging wider use of local development orders (LDOs) by removing the bureaucracy involved which often acts as a disincentive.
  • Removing disincentives to the use of Article 4 directions by addressing the requirement for local authorities to pay compensation.
  • Encourage use of Neighbourhood Development Orders by removingunnecessary prescription involved in neighbourhood planning throughthe Localism Bill.

Download the Response

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