Allowing developers and landlords to convert commercial buildings to residential without having to go through the planning process will create “poor-quality housing”, according to a group of professional bodies.
Whitehall has changed the rules around permitted development to allow empty shops and offices to be redeveloped into homes more easily in a bid to boost housing numbers.
The new legislation, which comes into force from 1 August, has been opposed by The Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Chartered Institute of Building, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which sent a joint letter to the Government outlining their concerns.
The groups claim that “without the usual checks and balances” provided by the planning system, there is a risk that the new rules could harm communities.
“This announcement fails to consider the public good and demonstrates a lack of any forethought for those who will be affected. This is not only a failure to level up but a threat to our local communities,” the letter said.
In addition, RICS, RIBA, RTPI, and COIB said the law change would “incentivise” property owners to “push out” small businesses, endangering their futures.
“These measures will pull the rug out from under high street businesses that you have supported throughout unprecedented circumstances…just as they prepare to reopen,” the letter said.
However, the changes to the rules around permitted development will only allow the conversion of units that have been continuously vacant for three months, “to protect viable businesses”, according to the Ministry of Homes, Communities and Local Government.
The change in legislation aims to “support housing delivery and enable more homes to be created in town centres,” MHCLG said.
However, the letter sent by RICS, RIBA, RTPI, and COIB criticised the Government for failing to take on board advice about the potential negative impact the change in permitted development rights could have.
“Businesses, developers, residents and the built environment sector have all had serious concerns about these proposals from the start.
“Attempting to engage productively, the RTPI, RIBA, CIOB and RICS set out safeguards that could at least minimise the harm. None of this evidence appears to have been given consideration,” the letter said.