Planning Reform and increasing the delivery of new homes

As part of the Budget on 29 October, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation, Planning Reform: Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes, which sets out proposed planning reforms to support high streets and make best use of land and buildings to deliver more homes.

The consultation includes a proposal to create a new permitted development right allowing commercial buildings to be demolished and redeveloped as housing and another that would allow buildings to be extended upwards.  The government believes the plans would help revive high streets and create additional housing.

The consultation also seeks views on allowing hot food takeaways to change to residential use without the need for planning permission and proposes extending existing time-limited permitted development rights.

There are a number of implications for planning authorities, and for communities.

Developing former retail premises to create mixed-use properties, including residential, will be a lucrative opportunity for developers.  Some 72% of property professionals, including investors, owners, developers, consultants, contractors, property managers and letting agents see residential development of former retail premises as a way forward[1].

The British Property Federation insist there is a place in the current planning system for permitted conversion of commercial buildings into homes,  ’Breathing life back into underused or vacant office buildings not only supports much-needed housing supply but it is vital to our town and cities’ economic and social wellbeing.’

Voices of opposition have warned that the relaxation of planning regulations is likely to result in developers bypassing requirements for affordable housing, pressure on local infrastructure and ignoring minimum housing space standards.

The Town and Country Planning Association has warned that the government’s planned expansion of permitted development will deprive local authorities of essential funding and risks creating poor living conditions.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in May 2018 concluded that “PD residential quality was significantly worse than schemes which required planning permission”[2]. Their research finds that local authorities could have lost out on up to £10.8m from ‘planning gain’ and around 1,667 affordable housing units (as of May 2018).  When local authorities were asked whether permitted development had made a positive impact on their affordable housing stock, only 4% agreed.

The Raynsford Review[3] called on ministers to act to ‘end the commitment to extend permitted development to the demolition and rebuilding of office and commercial buildings’ and to ‘return powers over permitted development to local government’.

The PD policy generates substantial controversy and has had adverse consequences in some areas which can detract from the vibrancy of high streets and can create poor quality homes.  But with a surplus of empty retail units and a scarcity of available land for housing developments there continues to be support for these developments which taps into the potential of empty buildings to offer new homes.


Please let us have your views – do you think there should be extension of permitted development rights for converting retail units? Is there a role for permitted development rights to provide homes by extending properties upwards? Do you think there should be a new permitted development right to allow hot food takeaways to change to residential use?

Let us know how you intend to respond to these questions.  Please get in touch with

The consultation document is available here and is open until 14th January 2019