The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has made an Article 4 Direction to protect its town centres, high streets, local shopping parades and critical employment areas.

Recent Government changes in planning rules mean commercial premises such as shops, cafes, offices and gyms could be converted to houses or flats without the need for planning permission – by using Permitted Development Rights (PDR).

While there will still be a need for prior approval by the council, PDR allows only minimal grounds for refusal and does not allow the council to consider the impact on vibrancy, vitality and viability.

Richmond Council is particularly concerned about the implications the Government change, which came into effect on August 1, could have on the borough’s high streets and shopping areas, which are essential to supporting local communities.

 The so-called ‘non-immediate Article 4 Direction’ was made on  July 30 but will not take effect until July 31, 2022. It applies to 67 designated areas or specific properties within the borough, including the centres of Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington, East Sheen, Whitton, St. Margaret’s, Hampton, Hampton Wick, Fulwell, Hampton Hill, Barnes, Kew, Mortlake and Ham, as well as the majority of the borough’s local parades.

 Cllr Julia Neden-Watts, chair of Richmond’s environment, sustainability, culture and sports committee, said: “Businesses in the borough’s town centres, high streets and local centres are working hard to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Government’s new Permitted Development Right undermines this recovery. If shops and services give way to higher-value residential use, the effect will damage communities.

 “The Covid pandemic has brought the importance of our local centres and parades to the forefront. Providing top-up shopping and services to meet residents’ needs also supports the aims of our climate emergency strategy as it enables people to ‘live locally’; residents can walk and cycle to nearby shops and services and, thereby, lead active and healthier lifestyles.

“Our consultations show that the borough’s centres and parades are very much valued by those who use them.

 “Without planning oversight, the council will be unable to consider the impact of development on the high street, nor to ensure that social infrastructure and support services are sufficient to cope with an increase in people living in an area, or that new housing does not negatively impact the local area or existing communities.

 “I’m pleased that Richmond Council has made an Article 4 Direction to protect vitally important town centres and parades in the borough and help to keep our local businesses and shops at the heart of our communities.”

 Representations on the Article 4 Direction can be made until September 24. 

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