The Government has published an issues paper, which can be found on the Department of Communities and Local Government’s web site, seeking views on the question as to whether the process of change of use of land or buildings should be further deregulated. This is based on the assumption that the existing system is too restrictive and militates against economic growth. Underlying the paper seems to be an assumption that there should be further deregulation whilst accepting that this may create local issues and concerns.
Being someone who enjoys a good debate I would like to propound the opposite idea that if anything we are likely to need greater control. Why should that be?
Planning legislation came into being because in the 1940’s there was largely unrestricted development and there was recognition that this was not good nationally and was creating social problems. The increasing population in England and Wales (now 62,000,000) means that we are all having to live more closely together. Dwelling units for most people are smaller and more tightly packed together. That means that there is greater concern about what your neighbour does with his property particularly if the new use may lead to an increase of noise. Noise pollution must be one of the growing problems of this generation.
In respect of high streets an increased ability to change use could speed up the process whereby they cease to be a retail experience and moves to other uses some more acceptable than others. Initially this is unlikely to affect the retail parks but will first hit the local high streets which are already under threat. The local high street may already be in its death throws but if the view is that it should be preserved for as long as possible then a greater freedom to change uses of premises away from retail can only have an adverse effect.
The government is making much of its localism rights in the Issues Paper on the basis that what may suit one area will not suit another. I declare an interest in that I am yet to be convinced of the benefits of localism. I see it is as potentially devisive in that those areas which are inhabited by the strong minded, affluent and with time are likely to gain whilst other areas will suffer.
The effect could be that there will be a different form of lumbarisation in one area as against another. In a county the size of England and Wales that seems to me a recipe for chaos.
For all of the above I am tending to the view that greater liberalisation in this area of change of use sounds wonderful but could have serious and unforeseen consequences . If you would like to read and or comment on the Issues Paper then click on this link.
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