New rules facilitating the conversion of commercial premises in England into homes are to come into force, according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured).
Full planning applications will not be required, and homes will instead be delivered through a prior approval process.
From 21 April, unused commercial buildings will be granted permitted development to be converted into homes via a fast-track prior approval.
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In addition, a fast track for extending public buildings, such as schools, colleges and hospitals will be introduced.
Jenrick said the measures, which are being brought in sooner than previously expected, will help high streets to adapt and thrive.
However, a coalition of planners and developers have voiced concerns that the changes in fact risk doing the opposite.
According to the government, converting unused commercial buildings into homes could encourage more people to live near high streets and come into central areas for both work and leisure.
As part of the new rules, councils will only be able to turn down applications on limited grounds, including flooding risk, noise pollution and inadequate natural light.
Despite the reduced restrictions, the government noted that new homes will continue to be required to provide adequate natural light and meet space standards.
Jenrick said: “We are creating the most small business-friendly planning system in the world to provide the flexibility needed for high streets to bounce back from the pandemic.
“By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.”