New planning rules boost for towns and cities

Businesses which have been closed for months were finally reopening their doors this week as the latest release of lockdown restrictions came into place on 12 April.

It is a boost for embattled businesses desperate to attract customers back to commercial centres in cities and towns across England the rest of the UK.

The latest move is a further boost to the economy after new rules allowing commercial premises to be converted into homes come into force, as part of a package of measures to revitalise England’s high streets and town centres.

The changes, announced by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, will help support the creation of much-needed homes while also giving high streets a new lease of life – removing eyesores, transforming unused buildings and making the most of brownfield land.

The package introduces a new fast track for extending public service buildings. New rules allow for bigger extensions to existing public buildings including schools, colleges, universities and hospitals.

This will help deliver more classrooms and hospital space by enabling them to extend further and faster, as we emerge from the pandemic.

Allowing unused commercial buildings to be changed into homes will encourage more people to live near local high streets and come to the area for work and leisure.

The new homes will be delivered through a simpler ‘prior approval’ process instead of a full planning application and will be subject to high standards, ensuring they provide adequate natural light and meet space standards.

Currently, public buildings can have small extensions without the need for a full planning application. The latest changes mean they would be able to extend further and faster, helping to quickly deliver more classrooms and hospital space.

This will mean that vital public buildings will be expanded more quickly through the planning system with a faster, more streamlined planning process.

Mr Jenrick said: “By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.”

“The public also want improvements to public services as quickly as possible and so these changes will also help schools and hospitals to adapt quickly to changing needs with a new fast track for extending public service buildings.”

“This will help deliver more classrooms and hospital space by helping them extend further and faster.”

The announcement supports a series of recent measures introduced to help high streets recover once lockdown restrictions are lifted which include:

  • £56 million Welcome Back Fund to help boost the look and feel of high streets and seaside towns
  • Relaxation of planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways.
  • Planning freedoms to allow outdoor markets, marquees, pop-up summer fairs without the need of a planning application.
  • Longer opening hours for retail to give shoppers more flexibility and ease transport pressures
  • Extension of provisions for temporary pavement licences to facilitate alfresco dining
  • For help and advice on matters relating to the commercial property sector, contact our expert team today

Further good news came last week with the announcement of the buyout of fashion chain Peacocks.

The collapsed chain has been bought out of administration, a move that includes transferring 2,000 jobs and 200 shops.

The number means the other half of the 400 trading at the time of the chain’s collapse last November will not reopen as Peacocks.

The group was previously owned by Edinburgh Woollen Mills (EWM).

The buyers are an international consortium, led by Peacocks’ former chief operating officer, Steve Simpson.

He hopes to reopen the stores once non-essential retailers are allowed out of lockdown.

For help and advice on matters relating to the commercial property sector, contact our expert team today.