ACS says planning system must protect access to local services

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has joined a number of business organisations to raise concerns on Government plans to allow retail uses within town centres and local parades to be converted into housing without planning permission.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, 27 business organisations representing different professions and traders have called for the Government to reconsider these plans, highlighting the detrimental effect that it could have on communities and customers’ ability to access essential services.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government launched a consultation on plans to reform permitted development rights, to allow for most shops, restaurants and other business premises within the E Use Class to be converted into housing without the need for planning permission.

In its submission, ACS recognised the importance of flexibility within the planning system but outlined that any changes of use should only be approved following proper consideration of: the potential impact on the economic health of the retail centre, the need to maintain an adequate provision of essential local services, and the potential impact on the local character of the area.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “High streets and other retail locations need to change, including more conversion of retail units into housing, but this absolutely has to be done on a planned basis. A free for all in conversions to residential use would make high streets incoherent and less compelling places to shop, socialise, live and work.”

The new permitted developments regime is set to take effect on 1 August once confirmed.