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Local authorities have to make their decisions about live work development within the context of national planning policies. These are outlined in documents known as planning policy guidance notes (PPG) and planning policy statements (PPS). What do they have to say about live/work? The answer is little specifically- a national government policy per se does not exist on live/work.
However, emerging policies are at least making reference to live/work and homeworking. The PPGs, PPSs and other recent planning reports also contain plenty of guidance which can influence planners' decision making. In particular, the Government's Response to the Taylor Review of the rural economy (which strongly recommended live/work) explicitly endorses all the review's live/work recommendations. There is now, based on this response, likely to be a wider 'planning policy statement on prosperity' which includes specific endorsement of live/work uses.
'Live/work units are often purpose-built premises, or purposely converted into such units. They are clearly a mix of residential and business uses which cannot be classified under a single class within the Use Classes Order and would therefore be sui generis.'
This is a significant piece of guidance, as it represents the first and only explicit mention of the term live/work. It also suggests that any live/work proposal will need to be considered by a planning authority on its own merits, rather than as a residential or employment proposal.
The government has for the first time formally recognised live/work in national planning guidance, with the release of PPS4. Draft Planning Policy Statement 4 says that councils should encourage live/work units in order to make better use of land.
Matthew Taylor, Liberal Democrat MP for Truro was commissioned to carry out the review by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Taylor was tasked with examining the role that live/work could play in developing the rural economy.
Matthew Taylor MP’s review recommends a range of measures to promote live/work and home based employment. It explicitly urges RDAs and regional planning bodies to ‘support the further development of both rural enterprise hubs and live/work units'. Recommendation 29 also says that an exemplar programme should be set up in one or more regions to test bed the practical issues relating to live/work units in rural areas, adopting a recommendation in the recent Live/Work Network report, Tomorrow's Property Today. It also says councils should incorporate policy supporting home-based working in their local development framework.
The report backs pro-live/work advice in draft Planning Policy Statement 4 and says councils should be further encouraged to collect data on home workers to inform business support services. The review also recommended that PPS4, 'take account of the changing spatial working patterns that advances in information and communication technologies allow, such as live/work units or the use of residential properties for home working' (Recommendation 26).
Amongst other recommendations, the Taylor Review backs PPS4’s recognition that not all development in rural areas should be accessible by public transport and urges that this should feed into local and regional plans. And it says that there needs to be a move away from excessively inflexible policies to safeguard employment space.
It also urges the government to support the ‘growing opportunities home-based working can provide for economic participation by affordable housing tenants'. It adds that the National Housing Federation should promote tenancy agreements that do not prohibit home-based working amongst its tenants.
The review says that home-based business growth should be supported in order to nurture the rural economy.
The publication of Kate Barker's review of land use planning for HM Treasury in December 2006 will, we believe, give further impetus to the live/work approach. Specific mentions include recommendation 6 of this key review:
'a marked reduction in the extent to which sites are designated for single or restricted use classes – the need to ensure provision for live-work units is relevant in this context.'
The review's analysis of a more responsive planning system also stated: 'In addition, this national policy should reflect the need for planning to be more responsive to changing circumstances, due to an increased rate of economic change driven by technological innovation and globalisation. This implies including an emphasis on the changing nature of the economy and employment. Planning needs to take better account of the changing economy. There has been substantial growth in the retail sector, for example, but the use class for allocating land for use as shops is different from the use class for businesses, meaning that the employment benefits of the retail sector may not be fully reflected in local development documents.
'Equally, increased live/work uses mean that the boundaries between housing and employment use classes are now blurred, particularly for start-up firms. And the decline of the agricultural sector means that planning needs to play its role in supporting rural diversification to enhance the quality of life of those living in the countryside, rather than acting as an impediment to this change.'
Barker's wider call for a greater mix of uses on employment land and for planners to take a positive approach to changes of use is already confirmed in the 2007 Planning White Paper: 'Development plans should promote mixed-use developments. They should take a positive approach to changes of use where there is no likelihood of demonstrable harm'
'Plan-making and development control will need to respond to new forms of economic development such as providing for clusters and innovation.'
The following excerpts from paragraphs 7.46 and 7.47 are relevant:
'We propose that this new draft planning policy statement on Planning for Economic Development should cover plan making and decision taking:
'We intend to ensure that there is a more strategic approach to planning for economic development. Local authorities should indicate in their core strategy the circumstances in which they would accept development not envisaged when the plan was approved – for example if a proposal addressed a particular skills need.'
This lays out the general framework of the planning system. It sets out the overarching planning policies that planning authorities should consider for the effective delivery of sustainable development through the planning system.
PPS1 replaces the policies in Policy Planning Guidance Note 1 (PPG1) and continues to promote the value of mixed use development, in order to limit car travel, promote economic development and to create safe communities with vitality:
'Planning should facilitate and promote sustainable and inclusive patterns of urban and rural development by: – ensuring that development supports existing communities and contributes to the creation of safe, sustainable, liveable and mixed communities with good access to jobs.'
Mixed use's key benefits are identified as being able to reduce the need to travel and to bring different uses closer together to promote community life. Associated with this is a preference for higher development densities and the use of previously developed land:
Planning authorities should seek to:
(ii) Promote urban and rural regeneration to improve the well being of communities, improve facilities, promote high quality and safe development and create new opportunities for the people living in those communities. Policies should promote mixed use developments for locations that allow the creation of linkages between different uses and can thereby create more vibrant places
(iii) Promote communities which are inclusive, healthy, safe and crime free…
(vii) Reduce the need to travel and encourage accessible public transport provision to secure more sustainable patterns of transport development
(viii) Promote the more efficient use of land through higher density, mixed use development and the use of suitably located previously developed land and buildings. Planning should seek to bring vacant and underused previously developed land and buildings back into beneficial use to achieve the targets the Government has set for development on previously developed land.
This supplement highlights how planning authorities should be creating policies and strategies that take into consideration the environmental impacts of development. Mention is made of creating energy efficient homes and business premises, reducing carbon emissions, use of renewable energy sources and minimising energy consumption.
'Regional planning bodies, and all planning authorities should prepare and deliver spatial strategies that… in enabling the provision of new homes, jobs, services and infrastructure and shaping the places where people live and work, secure the highest viable standards of resource... and energy efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions.'
Although live/work is not mentioned specifically, reference is once again made to the importance that mixed-use developments can play: 'In their consideration of the environmental performance of proposed development, taking particular account of the climate the development is likely to experience over its expected lifetime, planning authorities should give careful consideration to the extent to which the proposed massing of buildings, density and mix of development helps to minimize energy consumption.'
PPS3, which replaces the guidance in PPG3 (2000), sets out the national planning policy that local authorities and regional bodies need to adopt to achieve the national housing objectives.
Through local and regional planning policies the provision of a wider choice of good quality homes, including affordable housing can help create sustainable rural and urban communities. 'To achieve this, the Government is seeking to: to achieve a wide choice of high quality homes, both affordable and market housing, to address the requirements of the community.'
The planning system should also make provision for 'a mix of housing, both market and affordable, particularly in terms of tenure and price, to support a wide variety of households in all areas, both urban and rural'.
It is worth noting that when the PPS speaks of different types of tenure it is referring primarily to resisting the temptation to separate social housing from owner-occupied housing, rather than mixing business and residential forms of tenure. However creating 'sustainable, inclusive, mixed communities in all areas, both urban and rural' is not going to be possible if planning policy prevents domestic small-scale enterprise. Planners can be encouraged to think more widely about the types of tenures that go to make up a mixed and balanced community.
PPS3 also supports a flexible approach to the effective use of land. 'A flexible, responsive supply of land – managed in a way that makes efficient and effective use of land, including re-use of previously-developed land, where appropriate.' This is in effect advice to planning authorities not to be dogmatic and inflexible about their land allocations. Local planning policies also need to consider 'housing developments in suitable locations, which offer a good range of community facilities and with good access to jobs, key services and infrastructure'.
The key sustainable development policies of PPS1 should also be taken into consideration, 'ensuring housing policies help to deliver sustainable development objectives, in particular, seeking to minimise environmental impact'.
The proposals set out in the Barker Review of Land Use (December 2006) are likely to lead to fuller guidance on live/work in the anticipated PPS4, the planning policy statement on business use. However, until this is published, the guidelines on planning for industrial and commercial development set out in PPG4 still holds force.
PPG4 takes a more positive approach to small business development, and advises planning authorities not to prevent business development in residential areas where it is of an appropriate scale.
It says: 'It is now generally recognised that it may not be appropriate to separate industry and commerce - especially small-scale developments - from the residential communities for whom they are a source of employment and services. In areas which are primarily residential, development plan policies should not seek unreasonably to restrict commercial and industrial activities of an appropriate scale - particularly in existing buildings - which would not adversely affect residential amenity. Planning permission should normally be granted unless there are specific and significant objections, such as a relevant development plan policy, unacceptable noise, smell, safety, and health impacts or excessive traffic generation. The fact that an activity differs from the predominant land use in any locality is not a sufficient reason, in itself, for refusing planning permission.'
While not specifically mentioning live/work, this advice perhaps best outlines the principles on which live/work developments can base their case within existing planning regulations. Small business development may be most appropriate within residential areas if it passes the tests of nuisance and appropriate scale.
The PPG also goes on to support in principle small-scale and ICT-based home working in residential areas: 'Many small businesses and other non-residential uses are started by people working in their own homes, and technological innovations are likely to increase the incidence of home-working. Home working does not necessarily require planning permission. Permission is not normally required where the use of part of a dwelling-house for business purposes does not change the overall character of the property's use as a single dwelling. For example, the use by a householder of a room as an office, or childminding complying with the Department of Health's standard recommended ratios, would be unlikely to mean that the character of the house's use as a single dwelling had ceased and would not normally require planning permission.
'Once the business or non-residential use of the property ceases to be ancillary to its use as a single dwelling because, for example, the business has grown and the use of the dwelling for activities related to the business has intensified, a material change of use for which planning permission is required is likely to have taken place. The likelihood of there having been such a material change of use may be indicated where the business or non-residential use generates visitors, traffic, noise or fumes over and above what might be expected if the property were in use as a single dwelling without any ancillary use. Local planning authorities should take steps to ensure that such developments are effectively controlled, and should be prepared to refuse planning permission or to use their enforcement powers where appropriate.'
Planning departments should also 'Encourage new development in locations which minimise the length and number of trips, especially by motor vehicles [and] that can be served by more energy efficient modes of transport'. This policy guideline is relevant in the case of live/work particularly if small businesses wish to reduce their environmental impact. Working from or near to home can contribute to a reduction in car travel.
This common sense approach combines planning principles with an awareness of the realities of small business development and company growth, and perhaps could provide the basis of a more comprehensive approach to home-based working and live/work development. However, its focus is uses which are clearly ancillary to residential use. Nonetheless, similar principles can apply to live work.
The guidance also acknowledges the fact that small businesses are an integral part of the growth of the economy. It highlights the importance of the provision of smaller business units in order to encourage this expansion: 'Few firms, especially small ones, can afford to build their own premises, and developers who provide unit factories, offices and other premises suitable for small firms are contributing to the expansion of the economy and of employment.' The provision of live/work units as an alternative to dedicated business units/parks should therefore be considered.
PPS6 is based on the basic principles of sustainable development, building on the policies already outlined in PPS1. In order to promote the 'vitality and viability' of town centres, planning authorities should be aiming: 'to deliver more sustainable patterns of development, ensuring that locations are fully exploited through high-density, mixed-use development and promoting sustainable transport choices, including reducing the need to travel and providing alternatives to car use'
There is scope for planning authorities to encourage residential development within town centres: 'Subject to other planning considerations, residential or office development should be encouraged as appropriate uses above ground floor retail, leisure or other facilities within centres. The inclusion of housing in out-of-centre mixed-use developments should not, in itself, justify additional floorspace for main town centre uses in such locations.'
The promotion of sustainable development in rural areas forms the basis of policies outlined in PPS7. Live/work is not mentioned specifically but does specify that: 'Local planning authorities should... support mixed and multi-purpose uses that maintain community vitality'
In addition, it offers some flexibility in the re-use of existing buildings. Although an economic end use is preferable, residential or a mixed-use conversion should not be discounted. Live/work has the benefit of being able to contribute to the economic improvement of the rural areas. Planning authorities would need to take note of the following statement when considering the re-use of existing buildings: 'Government's policy is to support the re-use of appropriately located and suitably constructed existing buildings in the countryside where this would meet sustainable development objectives. Re-use for economic development purposes will usually be preferable, but residential conversions may be more appropriate in some locations, and for some types of building. Planning authorities should therefore set out in LDDs their policy criteria for permitting the conversion and re-use of buildings in the countryside for economic, residential and any other purposes, including mixed uses.'
This recognises the connection between land use planning and transport. It specifically encourages mixed use development, and even encourages home working (although somewhat vaguely). Key passages include: 'Mixed use development can provide very significant benefits, in terms of promoting vitality and diversity and in promoting walking as a primary mode of travel. However, it should not be assumed that the juxtaposition of different uses will automatically lead to less car dependency. Planning policies should therefore aim to:
Once again the emphasis is on proximity of uses rather than an integration of uses that cuts across use classes. But the importance of land use to transport planning is now universally recognised.
In rural areas, the PPG goes on to say, planning authorities should note the following: 'In order to reduce the need for long-distance out-commuting to jobs in urban areas, it is important to promote adequate employment opportunities in rural areas. Diversification of agricultural businesses is increasingly likely to lead to proposals for conversion or re-use of existing farm buildings for other business purposes, possibly in remote locations [planning authorities] should not reject proposals where small-scale business development or its expansion would give rise to only modest additional daily vehicle movements, in comparison to other uses that are permitted on the site, and the impact on minor roads would not be significant.'
In this context live/work development would in principle seem to be an ideal kind of development. However, not without some justification, planning authorities fear that live/work proposals in rural areas including conversions of agricultural buildings for this purpose may be a back door route to providing executive housing or second homes contrary to the local development plan provisions.
PPG 13 also addresses issues around flexible working and home working, making use of the new ICT: 'The introduction of new information and communications technology (ICT) is enabling rapid changes to be made in the size, specification and location of development, particularly in the service sector and the knowledge based economy with consequent implications for planning policy. Although the effects of ICT are difficult to predict, it is creating opportunities to reduce the need to travel. ICT is facilitating increased flexibility in working patterns, including more home working, which has the potential to reduce daily commuting to work and enable some journeys to take place outside the peak periods. It also has the potential to increase the distance between homes and places of work, resulting in less frequent, but longer, journeys that may make less use of public transport.
Local authorities in both urban and rural areas should be alert to the possibilities for harnessing the use of new technologies to encourage local employment opportunities which reduce the need to travel. They should take a flexible approach to the use of residential properties for home working, consistent with the need to protect the amenity of the area for any neighbouring residential uses.'