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Pickles unveils 'beds in shops' plan

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The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, has announced proposals to relax planning rules to allow for office spaces, shops and warehouses to be converted into residential properties without the need to acquire planning permission from the Local Authority.

The change, which has been dubbed the ‘beds in shops’ plan, is believed to be aimed at addressing the shortage in housing stock created by a slowdown in construction. It is further hoped that the said proposals will boost jobs creation in the construction industry and increase footfall in high streets that will help town centre regeneration.

If the proposed reforms are implemented then the changes of use stated above will be classified as “permitted developments”. Permitted development rights are rights to carry out development on the basis that planning permission has been deemed to have been granted. By way of an example, the newly proposed permitted development rights would allow a developer to change the use of building that fell under use class B1(a) offices to class C3 residential without the need for the developer to engage in expensive and time-consuming planning application.

The proposed rule change will be underpinned by a ‘sunset clause’, which will mean the new permitted development rights will be in place for at least three years. However, once the three year period has elapsed a review will be undertaken to determine whether or not the changes should remain indefinitely. Local authorities will be given the opportunity to seek an exemption from the new rights if they can demonstrate that it would create "substantial adverse economic consequences".

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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