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Richmond Council takes action to protect its high streets and town centres

4 August 2021

Recent Government changes in planning rules mean commercial premises such as shops, cafes, offices and gyms could be converted to houses or flats without the need for planning permission – by using a Permitted Development Right.

The Council is taking action to remove this Permitted Development Right in selected locations across the borough to protect town centres, high streets, local shopping parades and key employment areas from being turned into housing without the need for planning consent.

Whilst there will still be a need for Prior Approval by the Council, this gives very limited grounds for refusal and does not allow the Council to consider the impact on vibrancy, vitality and viability. Richmond Council is particularly concerned about the impact this Government change, which came into effect on 1 August 2021, could have on the borough’s high streets and shopping parades, which are essential to support our local communities.

The so-called 'non-immediate Article 4 Direction' was made on 30 July 2021, but it will not come into effect until 31 July 2022. The Direction applies to 67 designated areas or specific properties within the borough including the centres of Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington, East Sheen, Whitton, St. Margaret’s, Hampton, Hampton Wick, Fulwell, Hampton Hill, Barnes, Kew, Mortlake and Ham, as well as the majority of the borough’s local parades.

Cllr Julia Neden-Watts, the Chair of Richmond’s Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sports Committee, said:

“Businesses in the borough’s town centres, high streets and local centres are working hard to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government’s new Permitted Development Right undermines this recovery. If shops and services give way to higher value residential use, the effect will be very damaging to communities.

“The COVID pandemic has brought the importance of our local centres and parades to the forefront. Providing top-up shopping and services to meet local residents’ needs also supports the aims of our Climate Emergency Strategy as it enables people to ‘live locally’; residents can walk and cycle to nearby shops and services and thereby lead active and healthier lifestyles. Our consultations show that the borough’s centres and parades are very much valued by those who use them.

“Without planning oversight, the Council will be unable to consider the impact of development on the high street, nor to ensure that social infrastructure and support services are sufficient to cope with an increase in people living in an area, or that new housing does not negatively impact the local area or existing communities.

“I’m pleased that Richmond Council has made an Article 4 Direction to protect vitally important town centres and parades in the borough and help to keep our local businesses and shops at the heart of our communities.”

Representations on the Article 4 Direction made on 30 July 2021 can be made until 24 September 2021. Read further information

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Up to: August 2021

Updated: 4 August 2021