Council takes steps to protect vibrancy of the city and its communities

The council is seeking to protect the city’s commercial spaces from being converted for unplanned residential use where it would have a negative impact on the fabric and vibrancy of the city. 

A public consultation inviting residents to have their say about the proposals is open from 31 January to 14 March 2022.

Protecting the heart and vibrancy of the city

Brighton & Hove has an enviable mix of independent shops, restaurants, bars and workspaces that contribute to it being a lively hub and an attractive place to live, work and visit. 

There are now fears that recent government changes to national planning legislation that allows commercial spaces to be converted for residential use, without prior planning permission, could threaten the heart and vibrancy of the city.

Government legislation 

The new national legislation groups together many commercial spaces such as offices, restaurants, shops and childcare facilities into a new ‘Use Class E’ band.

The government has introduced a new ‘permitted development right’ which allows for changes of use from the newly created Class E to residential without the need for planning consent. 

Local planning rules

In November 2021, the Tourism, Equalities, Community and Culture (TECC) Committee agreed a new local rule for Brighton & Hove, known as an Article 4 Direction, that requires any proposal to convert commercial property to residential to still go through the usual planning process. 

Comments received during the new consultation will be considered at a future TECC Committee to determine whether or not to continue with the Article 4 Direction. If upheld, it would come into effect on 1 February 2023, subject to the Secretary of State’s approval. 

A recent Centre for Cities report examined the health of the high street in 65 UK cities. It notes that office space converted to residential inhibits the vibrancy of high streets and recommends Article 4 exemptions as a way to mitigate this.

Providing what is best for our city and communities

Councillor Martin Osborne, co-chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture committee said: “We want to protect our vibrant tourism, culture, hospitality and retail industries in parts of the city. Yet the loss of business premises to residential in some parts of the city could significantly undermine them.
“Protecting commercial space in small local retail centres and parades is just as important as in the city centre, and we need flexibility to ensure communities have access to day-to-day facilities within walking distance of their homes. This helps develop 20-minute neighbourhoods, which councillors and communities have spoken about the value of.
“Local and national evidence shows that the government’s new permitted development rights could have serious negative impacts on the city‘s economy by removing decision making that is based on local needs and knowledge. 
“We believe that planning decisions such as these are best made at local level and allows flexibility to provide a balance of what’s best for the city and our communities. This consultation will allow us to hear the voices of everyone across the city and I look forward to hearing the response.”