UK government unveils new use conversion rules for rural communities and town centers (UK)

New “town center first” planning rules will cut red tape and make it easier to bring empty and underused buildings back to life, revitalizing the UK’s high streets and rural towns, Planning Minister Nick Boles announced today.

The recommendations being published for consultation allow local people to transform agricultural buildings or empty premises, which are not in prime retail locations, into much-needed homes, nurseries and free schools.

The proposals reflect the advice of the Portas Review, which recommended more flexibility for change of use, and would help the high street, rural communities and local retailers by increasing footfall and spending.

Removing unnecessary planning burdens and regulations will cut red tape for owners wishing to unlock the potential of empty properties which do not currently have a viable future in their current use. It will also encourage them to revitalize their properties and reduce the chance of less suitable development.

Planning Minister Nick Boles said:

"Thousands of empty and underused buildings, often on the edge of town centers, are going to waste because people do not want the hassle and uncertainty of submitting a planning application.

Removing this barrier will bring more people closer to their town centers, providing a much needed boost to local shops and ensuring we make the most of buildings that are already there for new homes, nurseries and schools this country needs.

Extending these permitted development rights on brownfield land will benefit all communities - whether in towns or the countryside.

The new rules would allow conversions from:

- retail to residential: providing new homes and ensuring better use is made of commercial properties that are no longer economically viable

- retail to banks and building societies: more branches in the high street and more choice for consumers

- agricultural to residential: rural communities could benefit from more affordable homes by making better use of barns and other agricultural buildings

- commercial to nurseries: allowing offices and hotels to convert to become nurseries will help meet the strong demand for more childcare provision to support working parents

- agricultural to new schools and nurseries: supporting working parents in rural communities by allowing for the provision of new schools and nurseries, meaning families can continue to live in their rural community, and protect the countryside by ensuring previously developed land is used first.

Today’s proposals are part of wide ranging reforms to the planning system, which ministers believe are vital to support economic growth and sustainable development in the UK.

Extending permitted development rights will mean a quicker and more responsive planning system and using empty buildings and previously developed land will help boost economic growth while ensuring that green spaces and the countryside are protected.


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