Another announcement from the Government on new Class E uses, deals another blow to the Hospitality, Retail and Leisure sector. Jonathan Phillips, Hospitality and Leisure Planning Partner, shares his thoughts on the latest proposed changes to permitted development rights for commercial uses and what they could mean for town centres as we know them.

What is the Government playing at (how many times have you asked that in the last year)? Just as the Hospitality and Leisure industry limps off the sidelines onto an unleveled playing field, in a desperate attempt to rekindle some life into the wounded market, the Government is proposing to bring down another sledgehammer.

It is proposed to introduce a new permitted development right to convert new Class E uses (shops, restaurants, gyms, dentists, doctor’s surgeries, nurseries, etc) into residential use. The amalgamation of previous main town centre land uses into Class E on 1 September was a generally welcomed attempt to bring commercial and leisure life back into urban areas. But the latest proposals could blight town centres even more.

In April 2016, Steve Quartermain (as Chief Planner of the Department for Communities and Local Government) advised that 'updated planning practice guidance on noise makes clear that the potential effect of a new residential development being located close to an existing business giving rise to noise … should be carefully considered. The guidance also underlines planning’s contribution to avoiding future complaints and risks to local business from resulting enforcement action'. The new PD right will fly in the face of this.

Indeed, despite the Agent of Change principle introduced to protect existing businesses and operations, late night leisure operators still spend considerable time and money seeking to resist the introduction of noise sensitive residential uses next to, or immediately above them. Reliance on the planning system is insufficient to protect operators, with too many planning officers prioritising residential uses and the planning system does not prevent action being taken by complainants under the licensing regime or Environmental Protection Act.

Can we not just see how successful the introduction of Class E is at revitalising town centres before meddling further and taking three steps back?

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