William Eichler 21 March 2018

Planning laws should be reformed to protect commercial space, think tank says

Planning laws should be reformed to protect commercial space, think tank says image

Major cities in the North and Midlands are growing rapidly, but the Government needs to take action to protect the commercial space driving this growth, think tank says.

A new report from the Centre for Cities has revealed that cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool are outperforming the rest of the country in terms of jobs and residential growth.

In Manchester, for example, the population of its city centre expanded by 149% between 2002-2015, and the number of jobs in the centre increased by 84% between 1998-2015.

In comparison, the equivalent figures for London were 22% and 71%, and the average across England and Wales was 47% and 34%.

However, the report also warned the urban resurgence in places like Manchester could be undermined by planning polices which prioritise residential development over commercial space in city centres.

Permitted Development Rights (PDRs), which allow commercial space to be converted for residential use without planning permission, are threatening the commercial property which is integral to attracting firms and jobs to city centres, the think tank found.

Centre for Cities recommends that the Government allows cities to be excluded from PDRs. It also calls on cities to relax their planning laws outside of city centres to allow for more homes to be built.

‘Thirty years ago the centres of places like Manchester and Birmingham were run-down and struggling, but since then they have undergone a dramatic transformation, and have become increasingly attractive locations for people to live and work in,’ said Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities.

‘This urban renaissance has brought opportunities for people living across these cities and their surrounding areas, and it’s vital that it continues.

‘But for that to happen, cities need to take tough decisions on how to sustain the growth of their commercial centres, while also providing the homes their residents need.

‘Public debate on these questions has rightly focused on housing issues in successful cities. But addressing these problems shouldn’t come at the expense of city centre commercial space, which will be vital in bringing more businesses, jobs and opportunities to these places in the future.

‘Reforming planning laws to protect the commercial heart of cities – and to encourage more house-building in other areas – will help cities to manage these competing demands, and to continue to prosper in future.’

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