Controversial permitted development conversion rights and new fire safety tests for high rises have come in to force
Four out of five high street properties are potentially able to be converted into homes without planning permission under new rules that came into force at the start of this week.
The new “Class E” permitted development (PD) right applies to the vast majority of commercial properties in high streets and town centres, as well as light industrial units.
The rules, which have been welcomed by some developers but sharply criticised by planners and other developers, have come into force at the same time as new regulations requiring fire risk of proposed high rise buildings to be assessed at planning application stage.
The Town and Country Planning Association said detailed research undertaken for it by University College London of four town and city centres showed an average of just over 80% of commercial buildings could be converted into homes under the new PD right. This rose to as high as 89% in one of the centres, Barnet, in north London.
The new rules, which open up many commercial buildings, including restaurants, cafes, offices, gyms, nurseries, day centres and light industrial units for residential conversion for the first time, present a major opportunity for residential developers.
Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at consultant Ringley, said the rule were proof that fire safety “is no longer a fringe concern”. She said: “Developers will now be accountable for fire safety compliance at the very first sight of submitted proposals”.
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