Permitted development threatens future of the high street

The Government’s “Planning for the future” white paper mulls many sweeping changes to our planning system. One of these changes is the expansion of the permitted development rights.

Permitted development rights were introduced in 2013 to allow property owners to make alterations to their property without seeking full planning permission. These rights allow office block owners to convert their properties to an apartment building. An example of this is the Holmes Park development, next door to the Capitol Theatre.

The situation is about to get much worse.

Whilst the Government document is incredibly vague, if these rights are expanded it could allow property owners to convert shops and restaurants into buildings for residential use. With this we could see empty or even in use buildings being permanently converted to residential use.

Rather than solving the issue of an under supply of housing, it creates two further problems.

The first is that it will vastly reduce the floor space in the high street. When there is less available floorspace, there is less supply. As a result, rents will increase to reflect this lower level of supply. This makes it harder for new businesses to open up on the high street and puts increased financial pressure on the existing businesses. In the long run we will see fewer businesses and fewer jobs.

The second is that it creates substandard homes. There are many examples of where conversions from office blocks to residential developments result in a poor standard of accommodation giving none or minimal light, poor ventilation and little space. In fact, if a property developer were to build these from scratch, they’d be classed unfit for human habitation. As a result, many are dubbing these the slums of the future. Do we really want our high street to turn into these modern-day slums?

Horsham deserves so much better than this. The Government should think very carefully before opening the high street up to residential development.

You can read our press coverage of this issue in the West Sussex County Times.

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