Proposals to reduce planning burdens and make it easier to change the use of existing buildings could have big implications for the childcare industry. The plans aim to revitalise the high street and rural communities, providing new housing, developing more free schools and contributing to the provision of childcare for working families.
If successful the proposals would allow premises previously used as offices, hotels, residential and non-residential institutions, and leisure and assembly to be able to change use to nurseries providing childcare. In addition, any building used for agricultural purposes, of up to 500 square metres, could be used as a new state funded school or a nursery providing childcare. Specifically the permitted development rights for premises used as offices (B1), hotels (C1), residential (C2 and C2A), non-residential institutions (D1), and leisure and assembly (D2) to change use to a state funded school, to also be able to change to nurseries providing childcare.
The government is welcoming views from childcare providers during this consultation phase of the proposals, and has created an online survey to gather your views. There are specific proposals within the plans to support working families and increase the amount of childcare provision in rural areas. These include:
Supporting working families to find childcare
- The participation of women in the labour market in this country is lower than in many other countries both in Europe and worldwide. The affordability and availability of childcare is a major barrier to work amongst parents of the under 5’s. There is a strong demand for a greater number and range of nurseries providing childcare. Without suitable provision it is difficult for young families to be able to find places that are convenient for their journeys to work.
- We are consulting on a proposal to relax planning rules so that non-domestic early years childcare providers can deliver additional and high quality places to meet increasing demand. To achieve this we believe that there is a strong case for replicating the permitted development rights for permanent change of use to state funded schools, which came into force on 30 May 2013, to cover nurseries providing childcare.
- Permitted development rights for nurseries will enable providers to respond more quickly to changing market needs and help grow a thriving and competitive child care market. Access to suitable premises that can be quickly converted to nurseries is repeatedly flagged by providers as an issue which limits their ability to be rapidly responsive to growing childcare needs.
- Our proposal would allow offices (B1), hotels (C1); residential institutions (C2); secure residential institutions (C2A) and assembly and leisure (D2) to change use to nurseries providing childcare and carry out limited building works, as allowed for schools under Part 32 of the General Permitted Development Order, connected with the change of use. The school permitted development rights were restricted to state funded schools. This reflected the policy importance attached to ensuring there were sufficient state school places available for all children whose parents wished to use the state sector. It is proposed that the permitted development right is applied only to registered early years childcare providers in non-domestic premises. The prior approval requirements in respect of transport and highways impact, noise and contamination risks that are in place for state-funded schools would also be replicated here.
- All childcare providers must be on the Early Years Register which is regulated by Ofsted. The register covers people caring for children aged from birth to 31 August after their 5th birthday. Providers are required to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. Ofsted regulation and inspections of providers will provide an assurance of quality.
Provision for children in rural areas
- The permitted development rights for agricultural buildings to be used for a range of commercial uses came into force on 30 May. These have been welcomed in the rural communities. However they did not include any changes to support education.
- It can be particularly difficult in rural areas to find local educational provision and suitable buildings for new providers to convert to schools. Therefore it is proposed to build on the approach adopted for the agricultural permitted development rights to bring forward provisions for allowing change of use to state-funded schools as well as nurseries providing childcare.
- The permitted development will allow for change of use with prior approval where the gross floorspace of the building is less than 500m2. This upper threshold would be the same as for the existing permitted development right for agricultural buildings to change to various commercial uses, and will ensure that a number of farm buildings would be able to change their use under these new permitted development rights. The prior approval will cover noise, transport, flooding and contamination. This combines the existing permitted development prior approval requirements for agricultural buildings and schools. We propose that operational development should be permitted to the same extent as for agricultural buildings changing use under existing permitted development rights, i.e. a modified form of the operational development rights available under Class B of Part 41 of Schedule 2 to the General Permitted Development Order.
- The permitted development right will be available in respect of more than one building on an agricultural unit, provided that the overall size limits are not breached. In recognition of cumulative impact, any proposed changes which take the cumulative size above the 500m2 limit would trigger the need for a planning application.