Richmond Council has hit back at Government proposals to allow shops to change into homes in the borough without planning permission.
The proposal sets out for a new permitted development right, which allows buildings currently in commercial, business or service use to be converted to residential use without the need of a formal planning application.
Richmond Council has sent a formal response to Robert Jenrick and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government’s consultation, criticising the plans.
Julia Neden-Watts, Chair of Richmond’s Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sports Committee said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of essential local facilities that are key to supporting sustainable communities.
“These permitted development right proposals would occur at the worst possible time, clashing with the economic and social recovery process and undermining the adaptation of our centres to become diverse, vibrant and successful locations once again.
“The effect on our high streets if shops and services gave way to higher-value residential use would be devastating.”
The proposal sets out measures to public service infrastructure through the planning system which includes new schools, hospitals and prisons.
These measures could have a major impact on Richmond’s town centres, high streets and local centres, which would have a knock-on effect on an economy which is already struggling with ongoing restrictions on retail, hospitability and service businesses due to the pandemic.
Neden-Watts added: “I am severely disappointed that these permitted development right proposals are further indication that what the Government says and what it does are not aligned.
“The Government claims that it is committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues at the local level wherever possible, yet these proposals do the opposite.”
Developers could be permitted to convert shops, bars and restaurants into homes, without consulting with the local council or the local community.
Without oversight, the council will be unable to ensure that social infrastructure and support services are sufficient to support an increase in people living in an area, or to ensure that any new housing does not negatively impact the local area or existing communities.
Planning-free change of use to residential areas could see the disappearance of available premises, which will be critical to the recovery and growth of local high streets after the pandemic.
You can read more about the proposals here.