Planning flexibilities and change of use

The government has been introducing new flexibilities within the planning system. These involve extra forms of ‘permitted development’ and freedoms on changes of use between planning use classes. RBKC successfully applied for exemption from the three year ‘commercial to residential’ freedom, to protect local employment.

However, other new freedoms, such as shops to housing, do not apply in conservation areas, which cover over 70% of the borough. In May 2014, the government introduced new rights to change of use. Particularly concerning to us is the right to change A1 (retail) to A2 (financial institutions including estate agents) for a temporary two year period. All the occupier needs to do it notify the council of the intention to change the use. There are no controls preventing the change. We have already seen the change of a corner shop on Mary Place to an estate agent in W10. More will come.

The secondary legislation that allows the temporary change of use requires the site to revert to its previous lawful use intwo years. If the occupier/owner wishes to continue using the site for the use they would have to apply for planning permission in the normal way (unless the government comes up with some other initiative which enables temporary uses to stay for longer). We have questioned how this will be administrated.