Last month’s Budget contained some interesting planning nuggets. One related to the Government’s desire to bolster the nation’s High Streets. It appears that Mrs May and her Planning Minister James Brokenshire will be looking soon to introduce additional planning freedoms for vacant shops and commercial property to change use to housing by modernising the Use Classes Order. Northern Planners will be keeping an eye on this one as it will potentially have benefits for our clients, especially in town centres like Knaresborough where under used parts of the High Street certainly need rationalisation through conversion to much-needed residential accommodation.
The Government also used the Budget to endorse the findings of Sir Oliver Letwin’s report on build out rates for housing. He has concluded that large housebuilders are not engaged in systematic speculative land-banking and that new planning initiatives are required to ensure that where local authorities allocate sites of 1,500 houses or more, a greater variety of housing ‘product’ is encouraged and infrastructure is provided to deliver development. Here in Harrogate District, the Council’s decision to promote a new settlement means that Sir Letwin’s recommendations will be read with close interest.