The Cockermouth Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO) was approved yesterday following a local referendum in which 1,200 residents cast a vote.
Introduced by the Localism Act, NDOs allow planning permission for certain developments in particular areas without the need to submit an application.
Like neighbourhood plans, NDOs can only be drawn up by parish or town councils or a designated neighbourhood forum.
They must be independently examined and then approved by a local referendum before being adopted.
The Cockermouth Neighbourhood Development Order permits:
Commercial properties in the town’s historic Market Place area to convert into cafés, bars and restaurants.
The conversion of the upper floors of commercial properties on two town centre streets into a maximum of four flats per property.
Traditional timber shopfronts to be installed without an application in the same two streets.
Timber sliding windows and doors to be installed in five other residential streets.
There was a 19.3 per cent turnout for the referendum, in which 772 votes were made in favour of the proposals, compared to 496 against.
Sheila Brown, town clerk for Cockermouth Town Council, said the expectation was that the types of development permitted by the NDO would bring "wider environmental, social, and economic benefits to the town".
She said: "It’s taken us about three years [to get to this point]. We are really pleased with the result. It’s taken a lot of work and a lot of effort from an awful lot of people."