New rules allowing commercial premises in England to be converted into homes are to come into force, in a bid by the Government to revitalise high streets and towns centres.
The new planning laws, announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and introduced on Wednesday, mean full planning applications will not be required and the homes will instead be delivered through a prior approval process.
The package will also introduce a “fast track” for extending public buildings, such as schools, colleges and hospitals, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Public buildings are currently able to have small extensions without the need for full planning application but, under new rules, they can extend further and faster with a more streamlined planning process.
The department said that converting unused commercial buildings into homes will encourage more people to live near high streets and come into the area for work and leisure.
It insisted that new homes will be subject to high standards, ensuring that they provide adequate natural light and meet space standards.
Mr Jenrick said: “We are creating the most small business friendly planning system in the world to provide the flexibility needed for high streets to bounce back from the pandemic.
“By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.”
The Government has also announced changes to permitted development right regulations, to ensure the demolition of unlisted heritage assets – such as statues, memorials and monuments – is subject to planning decisions.
Other measures include the amendment of existing permitted development rights for ports, so that they have the same freedoms as airports for undertaking development.