Local authorities were able to apply to the Secretary of State before 22 February 2013 for an exemption from the operation of the Government’s intended policy change to introduce permitted development rights to enable the change of use from commercial (B1 office use) to residential purposes where this can be justified on economic grounds.
The list of local authorities that would benefit from the exemption were published yesterday and clarification and the precise areas has become clearer today with the publication of the Amendment Order.
Within London the local authorities and the areas concerned are: the Central Activities Zone and Tech City, London within the City of London and the London boroughs of Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea; all other areas of Kensington and Chelsea; areas in the Isle of Dogs and the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone; 6 areas in and around De Beauvoir and 6 areas around Mare Street in the London Borough of Hackney. Other areas are the Milton Park Enterprise Zone and the Harwell Oxford Enterprise Zone within the borough council of Vale of the White Horse, 13 areas within the Gunnels Wood Employment Area in Stevenage, Ashford Commercial Centre Ashford (Kent), the BT building, London Road and an area in London Road Crown Inn, Westerham Trading Centre, the parishes of Alton, Horndean, Liss, Bramshott and Liphook, Ropley, Bentley, Grayshott and the Four Marks and Medstead ward in East Hampshire District and the 2 areas known as Manchester City Centre Core.
The rights will also not apply where the site forms part of a safety hazard area or part of a military explosives storage area for obvious reasons. The rights also do not apply where the building is a listed building or a scheduled monument. The point being that the use of a building can often be part of its cultural heritage.
The Government statement in relation to the changes to permitted development rights referred to there being a “tightly drawn prior approval process” . Again the detail on this has now been published. In summary prior to any change of use an application must be made to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether a prior approval of the authority will be required as to:
- Transport and highway impacts of the development;
- Contamination risks on the site; and
- Flooding risks on the site.
The application for prior notification needs to be accompanied by a written description of the proposed development, a plan indicating the site and showing the proposed development and contact details for the applicant. The local planning authority can request information regarding the risks and impacts to enable them to assess the above or to explain how the impacts are to be mitigated.
In relation to the above where a local planning authority is of the opinion that it will result in a material increase or a material change in the character of traffic in the vicinity of the site they need to consult the relevant highway authority or relevant network operator; in the case of a site within Flood Zone 2 and 3 or an area in Flood Zone 1 which has critical drainage problems they need to consult the Environment Agency. There needs to be at least a 21 day window for consultation responses and the local planning authority need to have regard to those consultation responses in reaching a decision on whether prior approval should be given. Site notices or neighbour notification also needs to occur to give others an opportunity to be consulted.
The change of use cannot occur until:
- The applicant has received a written notice that either prior approval is not required or that prior approval is given; or
- The expiry of 56 days following the date on which the application was received by the local planning authority without the local planning authority notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is refused or given.
For more information on these changes and their implications, please get in touch.