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New freedoms to support high streets and fast track delivery of schools and hospitals are introduced

The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, announces a package of measures to ‘"revitalise England’s cherished high streets and town centres"

New permitted development rights will come into force from the 1 August 2021, and will help to support the creation of much-needed new homes.  The proposal is for commercial development within Class E to be allowed to convert to residential use, subject to a prior approval process and the development meeting a number of criteria, such as:

  • Having been vacant for the prior 3 months before the date of the application;
  • No more than 1,500sqm of floorspace may change use;
  • The building must have been used for Class E purposes for at least two years before benefiting from the new rights; and
  • Prior approval for this change of use will apply in Conservation Areas.

As per other prior approval applications, the rights are subject to consideration of issues, such as:

  • Flooding;
  • Impacts of noise from commercial premises;
  • Provision of adequate natural light to all habitable rooms;
  • In conservation areas only - consideration of the impact of the loss of the ground floor Commercial, Business and Service use; and
  • Impact of the loss of health centres and registered nurseries on the provision of such local services.

Other items outlined by the Housing Secretary include further permitted development rights of public service infrastructure (i.e. schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and prisons) that will allow enlarged extensions to be provided by up to 25% of the existing footprint, or 250sqm, whichever is greater.  Furthermore, the height restriction on new buildings will also be increased from 5m to 6m.

Permitted development rights have also been amended for ports, allowing the erection of buildings "in connection" with the operation of that facility.  This now specifically allows for:

  • Development in connection with the provision of services and facilities at the port, including the erection of alteration of an operational building;
  • Widening of the scope of who can undertake development to include a port’s "agent of development"; and
  • Whilst this will all be subject to consultation with the local planning authority, development under 4m in height and 200 cubic metres capacity will not be required to inform the local authority, where this development is urgently required for the running of the port.

For more information call 01622 776226 or email:

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