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Royal Town Planning Institute warns against large scale conversion of retail to residential

Royal Town Planning Institute

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has warned against large scale conversion of retail to residential

Government proposals that use blanket planning permissions, or permitted development rights, to bypass local scrutiny to deliver housing in England put quality and affordability at risk, it is claimed.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in its response to the current consultation says that permitted development rights carry serious financial implications for local authorities as they would not be able to collect planning fees and developer contributions for affordable housing and infrastructure.

The RTPI strongly opposes the idea of allowing demolition and redevelopment of commercial sites into residential use through permitted development rights, and says it would lead to the loss of mixed use developments which are often very important for quality places, good design and the local economy.

Permitted development rights are a planning permission granted nationally by Parliament which allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without the need for a planning application.

They are designed for simple or minor changes, not new developments of this scale which should be subject to full local planning scrutiny, the RTPI points out, adding that control over design, the public’s right to light, and the protection of neighbours and character of an area would be lost if buildings are allowed to be extended upwards through permitted development rights.

It also says that allowing shops to be converted to offices will only create dead frontages that will not help the High Street and could disadvantage disabled people, it warns, while shop conversions to housing often create poor quality living conditions and insufficient space, as many studies have shown.

RTPI head of policy and research, Richard Blyth said current proposals to extend the use of permitted developments rights are piecemeal, short term measures that neither help declining high streets nor deliver quality, affordable housing. They are at odds with the Government’s professed priorities in increasing quality developments and building safety, and they add to the financial burden of local councils.

He added that permitted developments rights have been known to cause extensive problems. They are administrative tools which have been increasingly abused to achieve policy aims. The local planning process, backed by national planning frameworks, should be used instead to deliver the housing people want for its ability to exert better control over land use, design and infrastructure contributions as well as for its role in community participation.

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