High streets protected by new planning rules

Published: Wednesday 27 July 2022

A new planning order in Kensington and Chelsea will protect shops, restaurants, offices, and doctors’ surgeries from being turned into flats.

The order, put in place by the local Council, has been given the green light by Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark.

The government originally rejected the Council’s application for the rule to apply across the whole of the Royal Borough. Town planners worked with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure that the redrawn area would protect the major internationally recognised areas of Portobello Market, King’s Road and the museum quarter – home to the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A. The approved order offers protection for 95 per cent of businesses.

Cllr Cem Kemahli, lead member for planning, place and environment said:


“Portobello Market, the fashion and music history of the Kings Road, our world-famous museum quarter: these are places people recognise. I feel a sense of duty to protect their identity – not just for tourists but for the local communities they serve.


“This doesn’t mean we won’t allow homes on our high streets. No one feels the pinch of the housing shortage more than us and we’re building 600 homes to help tackle it.  But where those homes are built it needs consideration. This is about thoughtful town planning. It’s about community. It’s about listening to local voices when we make decisions about their towns.” 

The Council has had a similar order protecting office spaces since 2013. Alarm bells were raised when in 2021 the government introduced a new rule to allow shops, restaurants and offices to change their use without planning permission. The Council calculated that the change could threaten up to 520 shops in the borough and result in the loss of offices providing some 14,600 jobs.

At five square miles, Kensington and Chelsea is the smallest borough in London outside of the city, which affects the way high streets serve local communities. Employment zones and centres with a village feel are located around the borough, meaning changing use could impact high streets, breaking them up and losing their unique identities.

Since the Council’s application, the boroughs of Wandsworth, Westminster and Camden have also applied for similar orders.

The Council is tackling the housing shortage with its own programme to build 600 homes and has identified opportunity areas for whole new communities in Earls Court and Kensal Canalside.

Read the letter from Secretary of State Greg Clark.