Planning rules can often change during times of crisis to help communities recover from economic turmoil.
With the COVID-19 pandemic things have been no different, with countries responding in different ways in to protect jobs and mitigate the economic damage caused by lockdowns.
Across the world the planning rulebook – i.e. the way we use and protect land as a valuable resource – is being rewritten to reflect our ability to work and live, but at what cost?
The home office or office home?
Protecting the amenity of people’s private homes has typically been afforded the highest value in planning systems around the world.
No other activity is usually permitted in this use class and for good reason: people should be allowed to live their lives at home free from negative factors such as noise, waste and fumes that might have been generated from other nearby economy activity.
The problem is for the last four months millions of office workers have now decanted into those very homes.
In land use regulation terms, one of the most protected uses – residential – has now seamlessly converted into commercial use.
Without an ability to enforce against such a rapid transformation in our work/life balance – the protections afforded to residential properties by the use class system have been effectively rendered mute.
Home workers are getting used to their new way of being economically productive – a RICS survey with Leesman of up to 10,000 workers found that nearly 80% believe being at home helped productivity.
With a growing desire for home workers to stay put after the impact of COVID-19 diminishes, it suggests there might be longer term ramifications for use classes than governments might have first realised.
More importantly, use class protections not only guarded against incompatible uses being located alongside each other, they also effectively distributed value, guiding our professionals and developers whilst giving investors in the marketplace certainty.
The loosening of use classes could result in a redistribution of property asset values and property tax receipts.
While this represents a significant shift for the market when it comes to property valuation, the full extent of its impact won’t be apparent until much of the COVID-19 crisis is over and whether the ‘new normal’ sticks or we simply return to the old ways of working.
The restaurants are taking over
The lockdown and the evolving concept of social distancing presented operators in the food and beverage sector a specific challenge: how to use their space to serve customers safely while being able to make money.
Whether it’s two meters or one, it has been difficult for businesses to seat the same number of people in an enclosed space and comply with the rules.