Wealden fails in planning change exemption bid

Wealden District Council offices Hasilsham. May 23rd 2011 E21049M
Wealden District Council offices Hasilsham. May 23rd 2011 E21049M

Wealden’s head of planning and building control said he was ‘disappointed’ the council’s bid for exemption from controversial plans to allow offices to be converted into homes without the need for permission failed.

Kelvin Williams said the council was concerned about the potential loss of employment space in the District.

New rules announced by planning minister Nick Boles introduce permitted development rights for change of use from B1(a) offices to C3 residential purposes and come into force on May 30.

Boles announced a package of measures relaxing laws.

“These changes will bring empty and underused buildings back into productive use; make it easier to bring forward suitable buildings for state-funded schools; allow business and families to extend and improve their premises and homes without the expense of moving; and facilitate delivery of superfast broadband,” he said.

“These measures also implement recommendations from Mary Portas’ review to reduce restrictive ‘change of use’ red tape.”

Seventeen councils have been been allowed an exemption, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

After the office conversion plans were revealed in January, many authorities protested the move could deplete their office stock and undermine employment growth.

Kelvin Williams said: “The council is disappointed its application for an exemption from the new permitted development (PD) rights, which allow office space to be converted to residential accommodation, was not granted by the DCLG .

“We have been concerned about the potential loss of employment space.

“We are still waiting for further details of the relaxation in planning controls such as fees to be charged and will be finalising our guidance for all the PD changes to agents and local residents within the next two weeks.

“To be eligible for a change of use, a property must have been in office use immediately before May 30, 2013. Prior approval will still be required before any change of use takes place to allow the planning authority to take into account of any road, flood prevention and contamination issues.

“The rules regarding development within the Ashdown Forest 7km protection area will still apply and listed buildings will still require formal planning and Listed Building consent for the change of use.

“If the work is not begun within three years, it will become subject to planning permission.”