Buckinghamshire Council has written to Housing Minister Robert Jenrick to ask him to halt plans to allow shops to be converted to homes under Permitted Development Rights (PDR).

Cllr Martin Tett has asked the minister to pause the proposed changes, which are due to come in on August 1, and consider a different approach. The Government wants to allow retail space to be converted to residential without the need for planning permission.

Cllr Tett has highlighted Amersham where Waterstones and Superdrug stores are likely to leave the town. He believes their presence is pivotal to attracting smaller independent operators and fears they could be converting to residential.

He said: “Giving automatic rights to convert prime retail space into residential space removes any local power for communities or councils to take measures to protect and invigorate our main high streets.

“National rules will squash our local voices. We simply should not take a one-size-fits-all national approach to this.

“This proposed change risks putting power completely in the hands of developers and leaves local communities and local authorities powerless to shape the future of prime high streets in our towns and villages.

“Each town and each high street will have its own dynamic, its own evolving retail footprint and its own place at the heart of our communities – high streets are part of the hyper local economy of a town or a village.

“Without the vital sanity check and safety net coming from local authorities, it could be open season for developers to break up and fragment key high street frontages and change the balance of our town centres.

“The Government’s proposed change to the planning system threatens the very core of what we are seeking to achieve in Buckinghamshire in protecting and renewing our high streets and shaping the future look and feel of what our town centres have to offer.”

He said although some protection is offered by using an Article 4 direction, they can take up to two years to implement. Cllr Tett has invited the Minister or any of the civil servants working on the new rules to visit Amersham or another Buckinghamshire town to witness his concerns.

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