Prior approval option for change of use added to growth bill

The government has proposed that permitted development rights that allow changes of use may be made subject to prior approval in a new clause inserted into the growth and infrastructure bill.

Parliament: Growth & Infrastructure Bill moves on to the Lords soon
Parliament: Growth & Infrastructure Bill moves on to the Lords soon

Clause 4 was put in as an amendment to the bill by the public bill committee in its final session scrutinising the proposed legislation last week.

The clause, which was introduced with no debate by committee members, seeks to amend current legislation so that permitted development rights that involve changes of use may require the approval of the local council or the secretary of state.

It says: "Where planning permission is granted by a development order for development consisting of a change in the use of land in England, the order may require the approval of the local planning authority, or of the secretary of state, to be obtained –

a) for the use of the land for the new use
b) with respect to matters that relate to the new use and are specified in the order."

The move follows the government’s announcement in September that it would revive its proposal to allow buildings to be switched from office to residential use without the need for planning permission.

At the time communities secretary Eric Pickles said that the government would also provide the opportunity for authorities to "seek a local exemption where they believe there will be an adverse economic impact".

Duncan Field, planning partner at law firm Wragge and Co, said he believed the new clause had been introduced as part of the proposal to allow permitted development rights to change from commercial to residential use.

He said: "Reading between the lines this clause addresses the disquiet expressed by some local authorities over allowing this change of use. Most of the time development is planned and commercial developments are often in locations that are suitable for that not residential uses."

Field said the clause could give local authorities the discretion to approve or reject proposals like the prior approval procedure for telecommunication developments such as mobile telephone masts.

The bill is due to have its report stage and third reading on Monday after which it will go to the House of Lords for further debate.

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