It is now almost five months since the government’s announcement of ‘Project Speed’, their multi-billion pound plan to revitalise the post-Covid economy. With its focus on infrastructure development, changes to planning regulations which came into effect on 1st September 2020, strip away much regulatory red tape, allowing for easier change of use for vacant and redundant buildings and land.
In addition to providing a lifeline for commercial landlords, a boost for the construction industry, and increasing the supply of homes, the expectation is that making brownfield development easier will reduce pressure on greenfield land.
What are the changes?
The changes are far-reaching, but include:
- allowing a wider range of commercial property to change use, including to residential use, without the need for planning consent;
- removing the requirement for a planning application before vacant and redundant commercial and residential buildings can be demolished and rebuilt, if they are rebuilt as homes;
- the introduction of a fast-track process allowing property owners to build additional space above their properties, subject to consultation with neighbours.
The government is keen to stress that although procedures have been streamlined, this is by no means a free for all, and developers are still required to adhere to high standards.
While providing considerable opportunities, the new regulations also have the potential to bring permanent change to the composition and appearance of our urban areas. BLB’s Head of Commercial Property, Caroline Entwistle, said:
“Even before the pandemic, some were predicting the death of the high street. Now, peppered as they are with so much vacant commercial property, many of our town centres and wider urban areas have assumed an almost post-apocalyptic feel. To what extent business can bounce back in these areas remains unclear, but changes to working and trading practices will, to some extent, prove permanent in some sectors.
“With this in mind, the easing of planning regulations for change of use allows for greater flexibility, particularly for commercial landlords seeking new business tenants. At the same time, with its potential for high returns, we will inevitably see increasing change of use to residential.”