How Planning Changes for Commercial and Residential Properties can affect development in London
How Planning Changes 
for Commercial and 
Residential Properties can 
affect development in London

Easing of Planning for Brownfield and Change of Use for Commercial and Residential Properties

In our ever-evolving urban landscape, the regeneration of our town centres remains paramount. It’s no secret that many high streets across the UK have struggled, with buildings sitting vacant for extended periods. In a bid to rejuvenate England’s urban landscapes and address the pressing housing shortage, the government has announced a series of measures aimed at streamlining planning regulations and promoting the conversion of commercial spaces into residential properties.

This significant shift in planning policies is aimed at breathing new life into urban spaces. With the easing of restrictions on brownfield development and conversion of commercial properties into vibrant residential hubs, property investment specialists and real estate investment trusts (REITs) are poised to play a pivotal role in reshaping our cities.

The recent introduction of flexibilities in permitted development rights marks a crucial milestone. Now, developers have greater freedom to convert underutilised commercial buildings into much-needed residential units. This shift not only addresses the pressing demand for housing but also injects vitality into dormant urban areas. Under these new measures, buildings classified under Use Class E, including shops, offices, and gyms, can be converted into residential properties (Use Class C3) without the need for full planning permission.

Regeneration and Adaptation:
Robert Jenrick, the former Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, emphasises that these regulatory changes are geared towards revitalising town centres and addressing the housing crisis. By providing flexibility in land use and encouraging the conversion of unused commercial spaces into homes, the government aims to create vibrant, adaptable urban environments for the future.

But this isn’t just about bolstering the housing market; it’s about building dynamic, inclusive communities. Creative reuse of commerical space offers opportunities for diverse leisure activities, enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

Consider iconic London landmarks like Battersea Power Station and the BBC Television Centre, which have both undergone remarkable transformations, providing modern commercial and residential spaces, signalling the dawn of a new era in urban regeneration. There was news last week that the BT Tower will undergo an extensivea extensive redevelopment in order to repurpose this iconic London landmark into a hotel. These success stories underscore the immense potential inherent in repurposing existing structures for the benefit of the community.

Initiatives like the London Plan Review and consultations on strengthening planning policy for brownfield development are driving forward-thinking strategies to ensure sustainable growth. By prioritising brownfield developments and encouraging flexibility in policy implementation, policy makers are laying the groundwork for a more resilient and vibrant urban landscape.

However, it’s essential to strike a balance between progress and preservation. Westminster City Council announced proposals this week that see a ‘retrofit first’ approach to redevelopment. The council said it will promote retrofitting to cut down on carbon emissions, aiming for a minimum utilisation of 50 percent of existing buildings. This approach mirrors the strategy employed by Unica Capital in property investment. It not only aligns with our ESG objectives but also preserves the architectural integrity of the communities where we invest.

While these changes present exciting opportunities for property investors and developers, ensuring quality, safety, and adherence to standards remains paramount. Responsible development practices are key to ensuring that our urban spaces thrive for generations to come.

Looking Ahead:
As these planning changes take effect, it’s essential to monitor their impact on urban development and housing provision. The conversion of commercial properties into residential units presents opportunities for property investment in urban regeneration. However, these changes also necessitate careful planning and consideration of long-term implications for communities and urban landscapes.

Government Initiatives:
In addition to the regulatory changes, the government has unveiled a suite of initiatives aimed at supporting high street regeneration and fostering economic recovery. From financial assistance to regulatory relaxations for businesses, these measures complement the broader goal of creating vibrant, inclusive urban environments.

As England embarks on this journey of urban renewal and housing provision, collaboration between policymakers, industry professionals, and local communities will be key to achieving sustainable, inclusive urban environments for generations to come.

Published: March 7 2024
Author: Chloe Roussel

Easing of Planning for Brownfield and Change of Use for Commercial and Residential Properties

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