New planning rules put town centres first

7th August 2013

An extension of planning and development regulations to make better use of empty buildings will revitalise UK high streets and rural towns, the Department for Communities and Local Government has said.

Its new 'Town Centre First' planning rules will cut red tape and make it easier for developers and businesses to bring empty or underused buildings 'back to life', it said.

It is hoped that doing so will help increase footfall and spending on the high street.

The proposals would also allow the transformation of agricultural buildings or empty premises in rural areas into homes, nurseries and free schools.

The proposals currently up for consultation focus on allowing conversions from:

  • Retail to residential properties - to provide more affordable housing
  • Retail to banks and building societies - more branches and choice for consumers
  • Agricultural to residential - the transformation of disused barns, for example, into affordable housing
  • Agricultural to schools and nurseries - better support for working parents in rural communities
  • Commercial to nurseries - converting offices and hotels to meet childcare provision.

Planning minister Nick Boles said: "Thousands of empty and underused buildings, often on the edge of town centres, are going to waste because people do not want the hassle and uncertainty of submitting a planning application."

"Removing this barrier will bring more people closer to their town centres, providing a much needed boost to local shops and ensuring we make the most of buildings that are already there for new homes, nurseries and schools this country needs."

The consultation on this topic closes on 15 October 2013.