Added on: 22nd January, 2019 by O1
Thank you to those who submitted their views on the government's consultation on Planning Reform Proposals. Below is a summary of the response sent by Orpington 1st on behalf of the town centre.
The extension and expansion of permitted development rights that the MHCLG has proposed diminishes the power of local planning authorities and town centre partners to influence important changes in property use.
In a challenging period for town centres, it is essential for the government to conduct a full and transparent impact assessment on both the existing permitted development policies as well as the proposed expansion.
Major structural changes may mean many properties are underused or no longer fit for purpose, and whilst there is obvious merit in ensuring underused office space can be converted to housing quickly, the permitted development right introduced in 2013 has not been limited to vacant offices but is being implemented in areas most profitable to developers and landlords.
This has lead to examples of businesses being forced to leave premises so that landlords can convert their property to residential for improved financial return with no concern on the effect on either the individual business or the location.
The impact is an immediate loss of wealth generating hubs for employment and innovation and a longer-term undermining of the vitality of town centres and economic and social wellbeing of our communities.
With the current uncertainty we support limiting the permitted development right to offices that have been vacant since 30th May 2013 to prevent further harmful disruption.
The potential of neighbourhood planning which encourages a partnership-led bottom up approach should be built on to help town centres evolve and to alleviate the problems of housing supply.
It is essential that local planning authorities, in collaboration with BIDs are involved in developing coordinated plans which support the business community and meet the housing needs of the local population rather than relying on speculative proposals for conversions which might ultimately reduce the attraction of town centres.
Decisions on town centre evolution and change of use should not reside at national government.
The impact of the current tax system in relation to business rates cannot be ignored in this debate. They are repeatedly seen as having the biggest single challenge to high street businesses and the effect of restricting the return on investment of commercial property has resulted in a distorted market which is not reflective of the needs of the local economy, modernisation is therefore essential to return commercial property to an attractive proposition for both occupiers and landlords which in turn will help support a return to balanced mix use development.
We now await the government's response.