Political parties urged to simplify planning applications

Propertymark and its commercial property division are urging the political parties campaigning for people’s votes in July’s general election to commit to simplifying commercial planning applications. 

They have also requested that politicians should provide more clarity over how local authorities auction commercial property under the High Street Rental Auctions brought in via the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act. 

Regarding decarbonisation, the UK Government must introduce grants to support commercial landlords with meeting their decarbonisation targets and to roll out the advice service nationally.  

Propertymark wrote to, and then later met, with the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero earlier this year to establish if the Prime Minister’s amendments to the UK Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for the Private Rented Sector that were ended last September, apply to commercial agents.  

Commercial property in England and Wales must hit energy efficiency targets of Energy Performance Certification B by 2030, with a significant target of Band C by 2028, which was moved forward from 2027.  

Prior to the election, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero was aiming to establish a Business Energy Advice Service to help businesses, including commercial properties, decarbonise, and they intended to use the West Midlands Combined Authority as a pilot, which will become national throughout England and Wales in 2025.  

Propertymark would also welcome a business rates cut, which is the tax paid on properties like shops, to reduce the number of vacant buildings  

Finally, it has also suggested that a database of current permitted users for commercial property should be created, or each commercial property should have a current permitted use.  

Currently, to use a building for a different purpose than it was originally planned, those buying or leasing a commercial property may need to request permission first. Many local councils have established online planning portals that enable developers to read a building’s planning history. Building purposes are categorised into ‘use classes’, which means that if the new purpose lands into the same use class as the existing purpose, you may not need to request planning permission.  

Anyone can request planning permission from a local council, regardless of who owns the appropriate land or buildings. However, the legal owner of the site must be formally notified of the plans.  

Once a planning application is submitted, it normally takes eight weeks to decide, but it can take longer.  

After receiving Royal Assent on 26 October 2023, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act provided measures to regenerate England’s empty high streets.  

Part 10 of the Act means that local councils would have a discretionary power to mandate auctions of specific empty high street premises such that a landlord would be obliged to issue a tenancy to a successful bidder, also known as High Street Rental Auctions, which Propertymark were supportive of.  

Data provided by GOV.UK shows registered land and property in England and Wales owned by UK companies or corporate bodies.  

Propertymark’s commercial advisory panel member, Michael Sears, said: “As the 2024 general election unfolds, we would like to see more clarity over the system of auctioning commercial property acquired by local authorities. Any measures should not drive down investment in commercial stock.

“Currently, the planning process takes too long, and this thwarts economic regeneration when it should be doing the opposite. Furthermore, the system is held up by local authorities refusing to confirm current use class, meaning businesses looking to occupy commercial property are held up by having to apply for planning permission to confirm they can currently use the property for their type of business. A database or something attached to land registry, or the valuation office, would greatly help.”  



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