More planning reform is needed to support the UK property market and developers, according to lending property finance experts.
In the summer budget the Chancellor hinted planning reforms were on their way, and since then the Government has set out its proposals for brownfield planning changes. However, property experts believe supporting the regeneration of UK town centres is key to unlocking the true potential of the market.
Chris Baguley, commercial director at Together, is calling for an extension of Permitted Development Rights (PDR).
Chris said: “Whilst the commercial property market in many city centres is blooming, regional town centres are struggling. Almost one in five shops in England’s northern towns are empty, in comparison to only one in ten in southern England.
“There is still a real appetite from property investors to carry out more developments outside city centre hubs. Greater flexibility and fewer restrictions on change of the use of units, could help support town centres.
“In my view, it’s not just brownfield sites which need a breath of new life, it is our high streets as well.”
Currently planning policy allows the conversion of B1 (a) offices into C3 residential dwellings, without the need for planning permission. This means it’s easier for property professionals to change a commercial office or shop to residential.
Converting commercial and semi-commercial property for residential use results in the regeneration of town centres and stimulates the local economy by encouraging local businesses to support the centrally located population, with amenities such as bistros, dry cleaners, hairdresser and bars.
Chris Baguley continued: “Since the planning rules changed, we’ve seen an increase in investors successfully executing this by converting redundant offices into residential properties. However, current legislation states that any PDR scheme has to be finished and occupied by April 2016. So from the start of this year this crucial redevelopment has slowed, as many new schemes which qualify under PDR struggle to get funding as there is no guarantee they would be completed within the timeframe. This is a shame as there is still a real appetite from property investors to carry out more of these developments across the UK.
“If an extension to the current timescale is indeed introduced, it will certainly be warmly welcomed.”