Boris Johnson has announced significant reforms to the UK planning system centred around repurposing urban buildings, as part of his New Deal infrastructure agenda.
The 'Project Speed' review of the planning system will deliver 'the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War, making it easier to build better homes where people want to live', the prime minister said.
The broader agenda aims to speed up infrastructure delivery however, the Conservative Government has avoided any controversies with rural and green belt voters in the short term by focusing the initial reforms on urban areas.
The plans are explicitly designed to 'support the high street revival by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed and reduce the pressure to build on green field land by making brownfield development easier'.
Under proposed new regulations, set to come into effect by September through changes to the law, there would be greater freedom to change the use of buildings and land in town centres 'without planning permission'.
More types of commercial premises would have the flexibility to be repurposed through reform of the Use Classes Order - meaning empty shops could be converted into residential housing more easily as well as into cafes or office space.
Builders will also no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.
And property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation.
Pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of uses essential community assets will not be covered by these flexibilities.
Developers will still need to adhere to high standards and regulations, 'just without the unnecessary red tape' - the Government said.