The DCLG technical consultation into further reforms to the planning system has now closed, and although it will be some time until we see the full report, some indications may be seen from the British Property Federation’s response.

The consultation included many proposals: changes to the neighbourhood planning process, additions and extensions to current permitted development rights, proposals for improved use of planning conditions as well as general planning application process improvements.

The response from the BPF, which reflects the comments of its members, agrees with many of the proposals put forward in the consultation, including those relating to neighbourhood planning, though it notes that the business led neighbourhood planning process has not been taken up to the same extent and suggests that changes should be made to enable this tool to be used more effectively. However, one area where the BPF response did disagree with the proposals was in regard to permitted development.

The consultation proposes a number of new permitted development rights to allow change of use to residential (C3) property. The intention of making development management processes simpler and ensuring appropriate development can take place without delay is supported in the BPF response, however they believe these proposals are unlikely to be effective. For example industrial properties with use B1(c) or B8 are unlikely to be suitable for residential use without significant changes which would require planning permission in their own right. In addition these properties are often located away from normal residential areas. Even without these issues, the BPF believes that such permitted development is unlikely to produce the large quantity of homes intended, so instead proposes a more considered and creative approach to changing the use of industrial buildings via planning policy and determining planning permissions. In addition, the prior approval requirement would negate any benefit intended, by introducing a new complex process to deal only with these changes.

The BPF believes that the proposals to allow permitted development to convert laundrettes, amusement arcades, casinos and nightclubs into residential properties is even more unlikely to significantly boost housing numbers and may instead be removing valuable assets from the community.

However, the BPF does propose a different extension to permitted development rights. They believe that ground floor office space may be better used as retail space in designated retail locations. This space is often undesirable for office occupiers, but retailers struggle to find appropriate premises in these high demand areas. The BPF believes there is a good case for these permitted development rights following the relaxation on the requirement for permission to convert offices into residential properties.

No indication has been given by the Government as to when the results will be published, so we will have to wait and see.