On 24th January 2013 Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced new planning measures in a letter to chief planners. The proposed legislation will be issued to come into force in Spring 2013.

The new permitted development rights allow change of use from B1(a) office to C3 residential.  The new permitted development rights will allow office space to be converted into new homes without the need for planning permission from the local authority.

The permitted development right will be in place for 3 years, and because local circumstances vary, local authorities will have an opportunity to seek an exemption if they can demonstrate there would be substantial adverse economic consequences.

Buildings no longer suitable or needed for agricultural use could be transferred into new ventures that benefit rural areas, such as shops, restaurants, small hotels and leisure facilities and offices.  Agricultural buildings will be able to convert, up to a specific size (which is still being determined). There will be a prior approval process for conversions beyond that size to guard against unacceptable impacts, such as flooding, transport and noise.  The new permitted development rights for agricultural buildings will not allow conversion to residential dwellings.

The town centre uses that can convert temporarily for 2 years to other uses include shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1).

The new rules will allow a range of buildings to temporarily convert for up to 2 years and will speed up the process of bringing vacant high street buildings back into use.

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