A new fast track for extending public service buildings has also been introduced to allow for bigger extensions to existing public buildings including schools, colleges, universities and hospitals.
Unused commercial buildings can now become homes through a simpler ‘prior approval’ process instead of a full planning application while public buildings will be expanded more quickly through the planning system.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are creating the most small business friendly planning system in the world to provide the flexibility needed for high streets to bounce back from the pandemic.
“By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future.
“The public also want improvements to public services as quickly as possible and so these changes will also help schools and hospitals to adapt quickly to changing needs with a new fast track for extending public service buildings.
“This will help deliver more classrooms and hospital space by helping them extend further and faster.”
To qualify for quicker planning commercial buildings must have been vacant for at least three months and be a maximum of 1,500 sq mts.
Public buildings can be extended by up to 25% of their original footprint under the new rules up to a maximum of 250 sq mts.