There is an urgent need to increase the rate of house-building in England and make housing supply more responsive to changes in demand. For decades, house-building in England has failed to keep up with the needs and aspirations of a growing population. The current rate of house-building is at a record low, with net additions standing at just 129,000 in 2009-10 under the last administration. Meanwhile the number of households in England is projected to grow by 232,000 per year.
In part this is due to wider market conditions and the economic downturn, but the Government believes that one of the key barriers to increasing housing supply is the lack of land and buildings available for residential development and conversion. For example, a recent Planning Inspectorate study found that only 61 per cent of local planning authorities had a verified land supply allocation in their local plan, and local authority reported figures suggest that, where a land supply is in place, it is often not targeted at areas of greatest demand.
The Government is committed to reforming the planning system so that it supports economic growth and drives an increase in the supply of land for housing. The Use Classes Order is a deregulatory device which allows change of use between land uses that have similar impacts, without applying for planning permission. The Government wishes to review the scope for extending the freedoms available through this route, while ensuring that planning and land use impacts are properly taken into account, so the topic of this consultation is the relaxation of planning rules for change of use from commercial (B use classes) to residential (C3 use class).
The consultation seeks views on the Government’s proposals to amend the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended) to grant permitted development rights to changes of use from commercial to residential use, i.e. to allow such changes of use without the need for planning applications. These proposals relate to England only.
This is a public consultation, open to anyone to respond. The Government particularly welcomes views from local planning authorities, housing developers, business, and community representatives. The consultation is published on 8 April 2011 and ends on 30 June 2011.