Richmond Council has worked successfully with the government to help protect Richmond upon Thames’ shops, cafes, offices, restaurants, and gyms from being converted to houses or flats.

The government introduced changes to planning rules on August 1 2021, to allow some commercial premises to be converted to residential homes without proper oversight from the Council as the Local Planning Authority. Richmond Council was and continues to be particularly concerned about the impact this government change could have on the borough’s high streets and shopping parades, which are essential to support our local communities.

The Council raised concerns with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and sought to protect key locations in the borough through an Article 4 Direction. Earlier this year, the DLUHC indicated to Richmond Council that the Secretary of State did not feel that the Article 4 Direction was sufficiently targeted and would not allow for enough flexibility to change land uses, which would be contrary to government intentions. They, therefore, required further evidence to be submitted.

Council officers have worked hard to agree on revised boundaries with the government. On July 22, the Secretary of State wrote to the Council to formally modify Article 4 Direction, covering smaller areas.

The modified Article 4 Direction will still be effective as it covers 62 areas and thousands of properties where the main concentration of commercial premises are located.

Cllr Julia Neden-Watts, the chair of Richmond’s Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sports Committee, said:

“We want to provide homes for people in our town centres and on our high streets. But this must be carefully planned. Richmond upon Thames is a special place to live with strong communities built around its businesses, hospitality, and shops, which provide essential services and opportunities for socialising. Without these things, we risk losing the identity of place in the borough. As such, alarm bells rang when the government introduced fundamental changes to the planning system last year.

“Since then, Council officers have worked hard to bring in the Article 4 Direction, which will be instrumental in protecting vitally important town centres and parades in the borough and help to keep our local businesses and shops at the heart of our communities. Importantly, the Direction supports the aims of our Climate Emergency Strategy as it enables people to ‘live locally’ so that residents can walk and cycle to nearby shops and services and thereby lead active and healthier lifestyles.”

See further information about Article 4 Direction.

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