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Permitted development and historic town centres

  • by JW

The inclusion of conservation areas would have a detrimental effect on “local distinctiveness”.


In the summer, there was speculation that new government rules would allow ‘permitted development’ in our high streets – to enable a change of use from business/retail to residential:

Applications made under the permitted development regime bypass normal planning processes.

Turning shops and offices into ‘tiny homes’ – Vision Group for Sidmouth


Town centres need reinvigorating – but it needs the right mix of housing, shops and leisure:

Reviving the high street: getting the mix right – Vision Group for Sidmouth


As we need to be cherishing the hertiage on our high streets:

“Using the historic environment as an asset, and giving it new life, has been one of the cornerstones of the economic and social revival of our towns and cities.”

The importance of heritage to the local economy – Vision Group for Sidmouth


In an excellent piece from Budleigh in the pages of the East Devon Watch, a correspondent asks if the new permitted development rights will respect Conservation Areas:



With the amorphous character of housing development sprawling around our towns and villages, it is only their centres that retain any character. But this character can now be changed “overnight” by new permitted development rights introduced by Robert Jenrick and described as a “complete gift to unscrupulous developers”.

From a Budleigh correspondent:

“New rules allowing commercial premises to be converted into homes came into force on 31 March 2021 as “part of a package of measures to revitalise England’s cherished high streets and town centres”…

“We all know we need to upgrade our town centres but as Victoria Hills, chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said “the changes were a complete gift to unscrupulous developers”.

New Jenrick rules will strip character from our Town centres  | East Devon Watch


This echos concerns expressed a month ago by the National Trust:


Planning permission overhaul could leave historic town centres ‘characterless’, National Trust warns

Proposal runs counter to government’s own stated ideas, according to heritage body

A potential overhaul of planning rules that would allow developers to turn empty high street buildings into flats risks creating “characterless” market districts across the country, the National Trust has warned.

The heritage body was responding to a government consultation on the expansion of permitted development rights, which could be extended to include conservation areas – parts of a village, town or city with particular historical and architectural merit. Permitted development allows buildings to be converted to homes without planning permission, as in the existing office-blocks-to-flats policy brought in some years ago.

In its response to the consultation, the National Trust said it believed the inclusion of conservation areas would have a detrimental effect on “local distinctiveness” and residents’ “pride and identity”…

Planning permission overhaul could leave historic town centres ‘characterless’, National Trust warns | The Independent