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Chief planner outlines policy changes

Words: Laura Edgar
Vacant commercial properties / Shutterstock_175046003

England’s chief planner Joanna Averley has written to local authority planners about the changes to the planning system and temporary measures that will remain to ease the path out of lockdown and aid economic recovery.

Concerning the regulations laid on 31 March to create a new permitted development right (PDR) for the change of use from the new class E to residential use – which have been heavily criticised by built environment organisations including the RTPI – Averley says the right will take effect from 1 August 2021.

The right will be subject to a size limit of 1,500 square metres of floor space changing use and will apply to buildings that have been in a class E use for two years, including time in former uses now within that class. The buildings must have been vacant for at least three months and will be subject to prior approval on a range of planning matters.

The chief planner highlights that where there are article 4 directions in place for office-to-residential conversions, these will apply until 31 July 2022. The Planning for the Future consultation includes a new policy for article 4 directions; the government is considering the consultation response and will issue a response “as soon as possible”, which will set out any policy changes.

Averley notes that the PDR aims “to help support housing delivery and enable more homes to be created in town centres”.


Averley references housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s written ministerial statement issued on 25 March, in which he said that where there are planning restrictions on retail opening hours, local planning authorities should not undertake enforcement action that would result in unnecessary restriction of retail hours between 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday. This is relevant from step 2 of the government’s road map for leaving lockdown (no earlier than 12 April) until the introduction of step 4 of the roadmap (scheduled for no earlier than 21 June). It aims to support the safe reopening of non-essential retail shops.

Flexible construction working hours will also remain in place until 30 September 2021.

Averley adds that the government intends to create a temporary PDR so that pubs, restaurants and cafés can erect temporary moveable outdoor structures for the summer season. This will also apply to listed buildings – provided there is no harm to the heritage asset. The government hopes that this will support the hospitality sector as the economy reopens.

Legislation will be laid at the earliest opportunity.

What else did the chief planner write about?

The government has published its response to the First Homes consultation. In order to update policy, the government will issue a written ministerial statement “in due course”. This will include the policy framework for:

  • Policy detail on the process for setting developer contributions for First Homes.
  • The types of developments that will be exempt from the requirement to provide First Homes.
  • The transitional arrangements that will apply to local and neighbourhood plans depending on their level of advancement through the plan-making process, as well as for planning applications.
  • The policy framework for First Homes exception sites.

A technical consultation on changes to PDRs for electronic communications is to be published “shortly”.

The letter can be read on the UK Government website.

Read more:

Prime minister pressed to reverse new PDRs

RTPI denounces controversial PDRs confirmed by the government

Covid-19: Virtual planning committee meetings to end

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