The Conservative government’s plans to allow builders and developers to skip planning permission to convert commercial properties into shoddy, poor-quality homes – without contributing to local infrastructure or affordable housing – will be a disaster.
The government wants to extend ‘permitted development rights’, which allow construction without any planning permission. Among other changes, it wants to allow offices, shops, barns and other commercial premises to be converted into housing without planning permission.
This will mean that the local planning authority will have no control over the external appearance, energy efficiency standards, parking spaces, or contributions towards roads, schools and affordable housing.
The district would also lose a massive number of the affordable homes that are due to be built in the area, because developers would no longer be required to contribute to building affordable homes.
This would be Christmas come early for cowboy builders and rogue landlords looking to make a quick buck out of poor quality, cheap property conversions.
Commercial properties like Stroud’s many old office premises can be turned into high-quality homes by going through the proper planning process; not cutting corners and ignoring the community.
Increased permitted development will result in loss of local democratic control over developments, poor quality, badly designed conversions of offices to flats, and loss of affordable housing provision.
The Conservatives have already trialled these permitted development rights during the pandemic, and this prevented the District Council from having any say over the impact of such developments on the wider community, such as the availability of parking spaces.
If the government makes these permitted development rights permanent, property developers will be eyeing up every barn, office and shop to turn them into flats without even basics like parking or access to green space – and there will be nothing the council (or anyone else) can do about it.
The proposals under consultation are being opposed not only by the Green Party but also by Stroud District Council, the Town and Country Planning Association and the Local Government Association.
Surely Stroud’s Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie sees how damaging this will be – but will she stand up against her government or toe the party line?
Green Party parliamentary candidate for Stroud