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Permitted development changes could see loss of 80% of high street shops

Words: Laura Edgar
Leicester / Trabantos, Shutterstock_1072081739

Research has suggested that 80 per cent of shops and other commercial premises on English high streets could be lost as a result of changes to permitted development rights (PDRs) that came into force this month (August).

The change allows the change of use from commercial, business and service uses (class E) to residential use (C3) without going through the full planning process.

Class E, which was introduced in September 2020, includes primary offices, restaurants, shops, professional services and light industrial premises.

The government intends for the changes to revitalise high streets and deliver more housing.

The research, by Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and University College London (UCL), maps the effect of these changes and sets out the "potentially devastating" impact they could have on high streets across England.

It looks at four case studies - Barnet, Crawley, Huntingdonshire, and Leicester. The potential loss of shops and other commercial buildings averages at 80.3 per cent but breaks down to:

  • 89 per cent - Barnet;
  • 77 per cent - Leicester;
  • 77 per cent - Crawley; and
  • 75 per cent - Huntingdonshire.

As well as such losses, the changes mean that councils have very little say over what happens to their high streets, the TCPA and UCL say, and whether any converted housing meets people’s needs.

Fiona Howie, chief executive at the TCPA, said: “We recognise the need for more homes and the desire to regenerate high streets. But we need new homes to be high quality and for town centres to be able to provide a mixture of services and amenity space. This latest expansion of PDRs further reduces the ability of local authorities and communities to shape their local areas. This is not the right approach if government really wants to ‘build back better’ and to revitalise our high streets."

She explained that the expansion also "contradicts the government’s recent emphasis on high quality design and beauty".

"Design codes could be a powerful tool but, as this research has shown, in urban areas around 80 per cent of shops and premises could be converted to homes and local plan policies and design codes would not apply.”

Image credit | Trabantos, Shutterstock