Will converting shops and offices to residential be prevented in, ALL our towns and villages, by ‘Your Waverley?’

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The area covered by the Article 4 direction.

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.”

You can read it here:





3 thoughts on “Will converting shops and offices to residential be prevented in, ALL our towns and villages, by ‘Your Waverley?’”

  1. I had some initial reservations about this – the shortage of affordable and social housing is more obvious in Waverley as a whole than the shortage of office space, and although we need to protect the high streets, you can get situations where shops are simply empty because of (nationally-imposed) business rates and the general trend qaway from high street shopping. However, as the header says, this isn’t about making it impossible to convert, just saying you need planning permission to weigh up the individual cases. The only “price” is that we’re making the process of conversion a bit slower, harder and more expensive, so it’s encouraging people considering conversion think twice and make sure they’ve got a really good case.

    I’d hesitate to impose it as an instant blanket policy over the whole of Waverley, though. Trying out new protective policies in areas at obvious risk before making them universal isn’t a bad principle.

  2. Agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments Nick. We too have reservations as ‘some’ residential accommodation keeps high street’s alive, particularly at night – which has the added beefit of increased security.

    However in some villages, the high street is declining to such an extent due to the huge amount of conversions that if it continues apace, there will be no shops or offices left. So as you say, trying out new protective policies is the way to go.

  3. Yes, I agree with both parts of that. I don’t really like the UK obsession with zoning, and I agree with you that *some* residential accommodation mixed in with shops is healthy, and avoids the (somewhat American) idea that we all live in location X and then drive to giant car parks in location Y to do our shopping. But equally villages can turn into dormitories if the last shops get converted into flats, and that really does need to have planning hurdles built in.

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