High street planning rules to be relaxed

On 31 March 2021, the Housing Secretary made an announcement laying out new planning rules, which are set to make it easier for high street premises to be converted into housing without the need for planning permission.

What’s changed? 

Unused, commercial buildings will be granted a new permitted development in order for them to be converted into homes after gaining a fast-track prior approval, according to the government announcement.

This means that councils will only be able to object on limited grounds, including flood risk, not enough natural light, and noise pollution.

What buildings does this apply to?

In their initial proposals, the government didn’t include size restrictions, which was met with criticism from planners and developers, highlighting their concerns of the effect this could have on the high street.

In response to this, the government amended their original proposals to stipulate that:

  • The fast-track approval is only available on premises less than 1500 sq m
  • It’s also only applicable to premises which have been vacant for at least 3 months prior to the date of the application

Are there exceptions?

There are also additional protections for conservation areas (although the new rules will still apply), and there will also be additional protections for nurseries and health centres.

The new regulations are set to come into effect on April 21st, but developers won’t be able to submit prior approval applications for conversion to residential until August 1st.


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