Dacorum Borough Council takes steps to protect shops and services in Hemel town centre
Rule changes mean some commercial premises can be converted into houses or flats without planning permission
Shops and services in Hemel Hempstead town centre are being protected after Dacorum Borough Council took steps to block planning changes that could have seen them become flats or houses.
Recent changes in planning rules mean that a range of commercial premises could be converted to houses or flats without the need for planning permission.
But the borough council was concerned about the impact this could have on the main shopping area in Hemel Hempstead town centre, as it could lead to the loss of shops, cafes, gyms and other business premises which provide services to residents, workers and visitors.
As a result, it put a direction into force to protect the main parts of the town centre.
The Article 4 Direction means that planning permission will continue to be required if there are proposals to convert shops and other street-level premises to residential use, leaving the Council in control of decision-making.
The original Article 4 Direction came into force on July 29 - but expired at the end of August.
Now, following consideration of the responses received, the council has decided to confirm the main parts of the town centre as an Article 4 area.
The Direction will remain in effect until it is modified or cancelled.
Cllr Alan Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Infrastructure said: "Hemel town centre is the place where our local community and visitors to the town come together to shop, meet, eat and drink and spend time together.
"High streets up and down the country are struggling, and to recognise this we are putting together a vibrant new plan for Hemel's town centre to build on its great strengths and encourage new businesses to set up and offer great services.
"We believe that the recent change in planning rules, which allow shops, cafes and other premises at street level to be converted to new housing without planning permission would have a damaging impact on the town centre's vitality and viability by taking away these active uses on the ground.
"We have therefore taken action to protect the town centre through the confirmation of an Article 4 Direction. This will give the Council the necessary controls it needs to help shape the town centre's future, working with residents and our partner organisations."