Marcus Plaw, planning director at LSH’s Bristol office, said it was crucial that companies should seize the opportunity to make their views known before it ends on September 26.
The consultation process follows the Government's commitment to the reform of the planning system by cutting red tape to expedite the planning process and in turn boosting the economy.
A series of changes to the planning system already have been implemented, such as the relaxation of some permitted development rights on commercial and domestic property – adding further flexibility to changing the use of buildings and their alteration and extension.
The current consultation, which began in July, covers neighbourhood planning, housing and town centre development, application process improvements, planning conditions, environmental impact assessment and amending development consent order procedures.
“With the 26 September deadline fast approaching, anyone who could be affected should be aware of the suggested changes and seize the opportunity to make their views known,” he said.
"Any further loosening further of permitted development rights will be received differently by local authorities, compared to developers.
“One of the suggested changes is to allow light industrial floorspace and warehousing to change to residential use.
“Inevitably, local authorities' concerns will focus on the future availability of light industrial and storage and distribution premises if it is eroded through such changes, and whether the introduction of residential uses into established industrial areas will bring about wider impacts."
He said that outmoded and poorly located industrial buildings could be enhanced through their conversion to residential use, bringing about both environmental improvements and much-needed new homes.
“Prior approval will still be required, so site investigations into flooding, means of access, noise and contamination will help inform whether a change of use is viable or possible without the need for planning permission,” he explained. “Other buildings by virtue of their construction and location will not lend themselves to this alternative use."
The consultation document also recognises that the imposition of planning conditions can be a burden to the development process.
"Developers’ concerns have long focused on the imposition, sometimes unexpectedly, of unnecessary or unclear conditions,” he said.
“Where conditions must be discharged prior to construction or a use commencing this only adds to costs, delays and reintroduces uncertainty.”
He said the priority for local authorities is to re-examine their use of planning conditions against established tests, while developers should carefully prepare planning applications with an appropriate level of information ideally agreed through pre-application discussions with council officers.
"The consultation document also suggests a system of deemed discharge of conditions – a process that local authorities will be keen to resist or temper strongly but applicants will welcome generally in seeking to move swiftly from the planning approval stage to the commencement of development,” added Marcus.
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