The Technical Consultation on Planning sets out the changes the Government wants to make to what it calls “a convoluted, confusing, expensive and in many cases ineffective” planning system.
It includes the proposal to amend Article 4 directions so that permitted development rights could not be removed from properties for which approval has already been given for a change of use or to carry out works, even if the development had not yet taken place. Under the current system if a council imposed an Article 4 direction the developer would be forced to submit a planning application. The proposals also say councils could be forced to pay compensation to developers whose rights have been withdrawn.
The news will come as a blow to groups such as the Plunkett Foundation and the Campaign for Real Ale, who had trumpeted Article 4 as ways for councils to protect pubs.
There will also be concerns that the document does not tighten up regulations that allow the A4 use class to transferred to A1 use without the approval of the local planning authority. Instead the Government has set out its intent to allow “a wider range of premises found on the high street and in town centres to change use more quickly without the need for a planning application”.
Former Community Pubs Minister, Brandon Lewis, who is now Housing and Planning Minister, launched the consultation today.
He said: "Since 2010 we’ve made significant strides in reforming our planning system from one of draconian top-down targets, to one where local people are in charge and it’s working well.
"Today’s proposals will help scrap even more red tape and make it even easier to get the homes and shops communities want built, while at the same time breathing new life into our vital industries."
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We will be responding to the consultation in detail, but given the evolution of pubs, with much more focus on food, there is little sense in having a different definition for a pub (A4) from a restaurant (A3), which is a point we will raise. The two are very interchangeable in the modern market, but we respect the right of local authorities wanting to ensure that safeguards are in place for new drinking establishments.
“We would welcome more flexibility to help the future high street develop and are pleased that no further restrictions are proposed within the A class. We continue to support the community right to bid.
Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said: “The current Use Classes Orders are hampering hospitality investment, particularly in town centres and high streets.
“They do not allow for a hybrid type of outlet which is principally food led but also serves alcohol separately, or the fact that many pubs and bars now want and need to widen their appeal to local communities by varying their offer.
“We would like to see a return to a single A3 class for licensed hospitality to reflect how premises serve different needs from different audiences at different times of the day and evening.
“We look forward to making our case for reform to enable pubs, clubs and restaurants to invest and thereby benefit local economies and communities across the country.”
The consultation runs until 26 September. Responses can be submitted via the online SurveyMonkey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/JKMX63K.