The government has announced a range of measures aimed at improving high streets including new powers for councils to compulsorily purchase empty properties, changes to licensing laws and a new permitted development right to enable retail premises to be converted into residential housing.
The Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) plans, which will form part of the government’s general reforms of the planning system, local authorities will have additional powers to take over derelict buildings through compulsory purchase orders to convert into new homes if their owners “stall” on regeneration plans.
Councils will also be “encouraged” to use existing powers to convert empty offices into housing and the government said that it would “strengthen the capacity and support for local authorities” to ensure they are able to use their CPO powers and rights to support the transformation of high streets.
The new permitted development right will allow Class E uses such as empty shops, restaurants and offices to be converted into new homes. This will be accompanied by restrictions on the use of Article 4 Directions (announced earlier in the year) under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), that will in future require that Article 4 directions can only be used to remove the right to change to residential if they are “targeted, well-evidenced and apply to the smallest area possible”.
The government’s strategy paper, Build Back Better High Streets, also promised that the liberalised regime for temporary pavement and change of use licences introduced during the Covid-19 lockdown would be made permanent, subject to parliamentary approval.
The government also re-emphasised its commitment to reforming commercial leasehold law to reflect changes in the retail property market – with a review due in the Autumn - and amending legislation to facilitate the expansion of development corporations where appropriate (which was consulted on in October 2019), with further details promised in the Queen’s Speech.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This strategy sets out a vision for entrepreneurship to thrive, where local shops and businesses are supported with permanent al fresco dining, derelict eyesores transformed into quality homes and new hubs for business and entertainment encouraged.
“As we build back better from the pandemic, we are transforming our high streets across the UK into the kind of vibrant places we will want to visit, work and call home for generations to come.”
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “Successive governments have, with the best of intentions, sought to support our high streets by pretending that the 21st century hasn’t happened, propping them up and sitting Canute-like as the waves of changing habits and online retail lap around their ankles.
“We’re doing things differently. Rather than attempting to force the toothpaste back into the tube, we’re accepting that the world has changed and giving our high streets the freedom they need to change with it.”
#A copy of the strategy document can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1003010/Build_Back_Better_High_Streets.pdf