The Council has taken a hitherto, little used planning rule, to prevent Haslemere’s Beacon Hill high Street from becoming just another residential area.
But when will this apply to the rest of the borough?
The Council’s senior planning committee has made an Article 4 Direction – to protect the commercial area of Beacon Hill from losing its retail and commercial space.
Following consultations with residents, and land and property owners on their concerns that conversions from commercial to residential were robbing the area of much-needed business space, Article 4 was invoked and is now in force.
Under existing GOVERNMENT planning legislation – legislation that has been heavily criticised by many, property including shops, offices and premises used for light industry, warehousing or distribution can be converted into homes without planning permission. So there was little the council could do stop the loss of high street premises. This has already resulted in many hundreds of former businesses premises becoming homes under their permitted development rights. And there was damn all the council could do about it!
Cranleigh Parish Council and Haslemere Town Council were among the first to be consulted, as both had made numerous representations to Waverley about the loss of shops and offices in their high streets.
Now the direction has been invoked, anyone wanting to do this in Beacon Hill will require planning permission.
Waverley’s Interim head of Planning Paul McKim said although high streets needed to adapt to modern shopping, working and leisure habits, those changes needed to be managed.
“The council, business communities and local residents need to be involved in shaping the future of our rapidly changing high streets. “We hope the Article 4 Direction will prove to be an effective tool in helping to shape our town centres. We will be watching Beacon Hill with great interest and if the model proves successful, we will, in partnership with town and parish councils, consider this approach in other areas.”
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