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Government wants to scrap planning permission for converting commercial properties

Nick Boles, the planning minister will announce a proposal this week to scrap the rules protecting shop units, and to allow owners to redevelop them as housing without planning permission

Boles’s proposal would give property owners “permitted development rights” to make the transformation from retail to more lucrative residential property.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bowles said internet shopping and changes in lifestyle had affected people’s shopping habits.

“We need to think creatively about how to help town centres thrive in this new era. We want to encourage local councils to concentrate retail activity into the prime shopping streets in the heart of their town centres and adopt a more relaxed approach to under-used retail frontages.”

Local authorities will be asked to identify “prime retail frontage”, allowing all other shops to be repurposed as housing without the owners having to apply for planning permission.

Boles’s comments suggest the Government is giving precedence to housing development over previous efforts to revive the high street. And local authorities have complained that leaving planning decisions to landlords who are working in their own economic interest will be detrimental to communities.

Talking to the Sunday Times, Boles said he also wanted to encourage councils to allow farmers to convert agricultural buildings into homes.

“We want to make the best use of existing buildings in the countryside to meet the desperate need for affordable housing in rural communities,” he said.

“The more redundant barns that can be converted into homes for young families, the more we can protect green fields from development,” he added.

By Tom Allsop

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