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Changes to some planning processes

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Changes to some planning processes

New rules allowing commercial premises to be converted into homes have come into force as part of a package of measures to revitalise England’s high streets and town centres.

The government says the new rules 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 also 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.

The aim is to deliver more classrooms and hospital space by enabling them to extend further and faster, as we emerge from the pandemic.

The new homes will be delivered through a simpler “prior approval” process instead of a full planning application.

The government says they 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.

But the changes mean they would be able to extend further and faster.

But the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has responded with concern.

RIBA President, Alan Jones, said: “I’m seriously worried about the government’s ongoing obsession with extending permitted development rights.

“These new freedoms are dangerously relaxed, and lack critical safeguards to prevent further damage to suffering high streets by turning essential community amenities into, all too often, substandard homes.

“We urgently need well-designed, mixed use developments that provide long term value for their communities and residents, delivered by sufficiently resourced local authorities – not a race to the bottom.

“I call for urgent reconsideration of this legislation that fundamentally contradicts the government’s wider aim of revitalising town centres and developing better homes.

“This is not the answer.”