Will Changes In Planning Laws Make An Impact On Oxfordshire? - B4 Article Summer 2013


The Coalition Government have brought about a change in planning regulations relating to permitted development rights which came into force on the 30th May 2013. This relates to change of uses for various properties which are now permitted without the need for a planning application.

The most significant change is that offices (Use Class B1(a)) are permitted to change to residential purposes (Use Class C3) without the need for planning permission so long as there is no material physical change to external appearances of the property. It is also our understanding that this overrides local planning policy and therefore Section 106, CIL or affordable housing contributions will not be required. Whilst some District Councils sought to be exempt from these new rules, locally it is only the Enterprise Zone at Milton Park and Harwell which is being excluded. It is therefore open season for any Landlord to change the use of an office building to residential. In reality it is our view that only a limited amount of the existing stock would be appropriate including more secondary office buildings and some rural offices but this is most unlikely to be appropriate for any modern business park setting. This change of use opportunity is limited to the next 3 years.

Another change allows for a more flexible automatic change of use for retail properties. Within the next 2 years planning permission will not be required for a change of use for retail businesses within Class A1 , A2, A3, B1 and D1 uses. This is a temporary change of use which will only be permitted for 2 years and comes about as part of the Portas Review and is designed to stimulate the high street especially in areas suffering from large retail vacancies. In reality we do not think this will impact significantly on the Oxfordshire market. The capital infrastructure required for a change of use from say a shop to a restaurant is not something that most businesses could contemplate for only a 2 year period.
With regard to the overall commercial market activity remains quiet and demand levels are low but with improving economic data and the recent good weather we sense a degree of optimism and positivity returning to the market which we hope will reflect an increase in market demand. Let us hope that a summer washout does not dampen enthusiasm.

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