Retail-to-resi conversions made easier as new law comes into effect

New rules allowing commercial premises to be converted into homes come into force today, with hopes it will help revitalise England’s high streets and town centre by streamlining the planning process.

Currently, public buildings can have small extensions without the need for a full planning application. Today’s changes mean they would be able to extend further and faster, helping to quickly deliver more classrooms and hospital space.

The new homes will be delivered through a simpler ‘prior approval’ process instead of a full planning application and will be subject to high standards, ensuring they provide adequate natural light and meet space standards.

The new rules, announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, aim to support the creation of homes while also giving high streets a new lease of life, transforming unused buildings and making the most of brownfield land.

The package also introduces a new fast track for extending public service buildings. New rules allow for bigger extensions to existing public buildings including schools, colleges, universities and hospitals.

This will help deliver more classrooms and hospital space by enabling them to extend further and faster, as we emerge from the pandemic.

It is expected that allowing unused commercial buildings to be changed into homes will encourage more people to live near local high streets and come to the area for work and leisure.

“We are creating the most small business friendly planning system in the world to provide the flexibility needed for high streets to bounce back from the pandemic,” said Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP.

“By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.

“The public also want improvements to public services as quickly as possible and so these changes will also help schools and hospitals to adapt quickly to changing needs with a new fast track for extending public service buildings. This will help deliver more classrooms and hospital space by helping them extend further and faster.”

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