Agenda item


Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the consultation on changes to the planning system.


Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the consultation on changes to the Planning System.  The Government had consulted on a change to the Planning System that would allow shops, services, cafes/restaurants, offices and health centres grouped in the new Class E use to gain permitted development rights to change to residential use without the need for planning permission. A report on this change was presented to this Panel last year. It was also consulting on a fast-track route for public service buildings such as schools and universities.


The potential consequence of this proposed new permitted development would mean that town centres could lose shops and other service and gain residential units in their place. This means that commercial high street business such as an estate agents could become a house; without planning permission.  This was not open to any consultation.  Members were advised that the Council has policies in the adopted District Plan and the emerging Local Plan that would retain a dominant proportion of shops in the town centres with a sufficient balance in other centres whereby the Council would be able to retain town centre use in all of those units.  Town Centres as a whole or partially could become residential and there would be no limit on the size of the building.  It does however protect pubs, theatres and live music venues, as these are recognised as having community value and/or heritage value. It would mean that it would be a prior approval process and the Council would only be allowed to consider certain things such flooding, natural light and contamination.


The Head of Planning advised that the Council should oppose the new permitted development right for Class E commercial, as it reduces our control over town centres and neighbourhood centres.


There is also the fast-track route for public service building such as schools, hospitals and universities; if Members had comments on this route, these can be reported within the Council’s response to the consultation.  If it is brought in as a permitted development right, the Council can consider an Article 4 Direction but at present they are only at the consultation stage.


Members were advised that there is no fee for prior approval planning applications and cannot seek S106 but the Council does own properties within the Class E and would benefit from this right if it wishes to take up this right.


The following points were raised and discussed:


·         It was clarified that the fast-track route would still involve the normal planning consideration/determination and regulations were in place but it does allow the planning application to be considered within a short timescale and prioritise it over other development schemes.  The Officer explained that from a permitted development right, it does allow greater enlargement of public service buildings.   There are also proposals for new permitted development rights to allow greater enlargement of public service buildings (25% of footprint rather than 25% of the original building’s gross floorspace and extra floorspace of up to 250 sqm rather than 100 sqm).


·         A Member requested clarification on the university campus building which is within the Borough, could these buildings be enlarged and their footprint on these separate buildings within the campus?  It was noted that if they are public service buildings they can potentially be enlarged, as they may be used for teaching or administrative purposes.  The planning system will have to investigate the use and how it supports the university; when the planning application is considered.


·         Does a public building include Council buildings?  Possibly yes but it is not explicitly specified within the list provided.  Some public service buildings need to grow, as they provide the necessary space and linked to a response to Covide-19 pandemic.


It was agreed that the Head of Planning drafts a letter in consultation with the Executive Member for Environment and Planning, opposing to the changes of Class E.  It was further agreed that letter should include the Council’s concerns in terms of the expansion of public service buildings, especially increases in floor area and height under permitted development and the impact on a green belt site from a visibility perspective.  It was noted there is already a proposal to build an engineering block which will be more visible from areas that are in the green belt.


Concern was expressed in terms of commercial buildings being lost within the Town Centre, in particular the vacant Debenhams store’s upper levels, which haveplanning permission for residential use whilst the ground floor will remain as a shop unit. 


The Oakland Campus which is in a conservation area, a question was raised whether permitted development rights are removed for such buildings in a conservation area? It was explained that such detail was not available at present within the consultation paper but the concern was noted.




1.    That the Council responds to the consultation to oppose the proposed new permitted development right for Class E commercial, business and service uses to be allowed to convert to residential use.


2.    That Members offered their views on a fast-track route for public service buildings such as schools and universities. 


Supporting documents: