As a way of tackling empty units on the High Street, the Government is considering introducing new Permitted Development Rights to allow greater flexibility for change of use.

Currently planning permission may be needed for hospitality operators where a move is involved from one Use Class to another – for example, to turn a pub with A3 consent into a hotel which requires C1 consent.  This is covered in our article Have you got the right planning permission for your hospitality outlet? 

No permission is required where legislation specifically permits a change from one Use Class to another – e.g. a shop (A1) can be changed into a cafe (A3) without permission, as this is a Permitted Development Right.

A list of current changes of use not requiring planning permission can be found HERE 

Changes to Use Classes

To deliver on its commitment to revitalising the High Street, by enabling premises to change from retail into leisure and community uses, the Government has consulted on the best way to do this.  Draft legislation is awaited following the consultation on:

  • amending the current A Use Class to capture all current and emerging retail models; or
  • merging A1,2 and 3 into a single Use Class to enable shops to become restaurants and cafes and vice versa without permission.

The Government believes that a change to the Use Classes Order would enable quicker change on the High Street allowing businesses to adapt and keep town centres vibrant.

Comment – whilst legislation to allow permitted development rights within the current A1, 2 and 3 Use Classes might help tackle a dying High Street, the proposed change would not seem to remove all hurdles to development.  As an operator seeking to change a shop into a restaurant, you would still need to apply for planning permission for various things – e.g. signage and the installation of extraction equipment.

Upward extension of buildings

The Government also proposes that upward extensions should be allowed on buildings which can currently change to C3 Housing Use a under Permitted Development Right – e.g. shops, restaurants, cafes and offices.  This would enable landlords to build residential accommodation above restaurants and shops in the High Street without the need for planning permission.

It is likely that such development would require prior approval by the local planning authority. Such permitted development would also still need to comply with other relevant legislation – e.g. Fire Regulations, Building Regulations, Party Wall Act etc.

Comment – This may be a less attractive proposition to a leisure operator. If the upward extension of High Street buildings becomes a Permitted Development Right there is potential for disruption at any outlet where development occurs above it.  Not only will this occur while the site is being extended, but it may also cause problems for you in terms of the position of vital equipment such as extractors, which are often positioned on a roof. 

Therefore, when entering into any new lease for a High Street outlet you should consider seeking to prohibit upwards development by the landlord in order to protect your business.