The new government looks set to simplify the planning system and encourage coffee shops to open stores in high streets.

Its Coalition Agreement has set out proposals first announced in the Tories’ green paper, Open Source Planning, which includes a pledge to tackle deliberate breaches of planning control and limit the scope for retrospective planning applications.

It also suggests amending the Use Classes Order used in planning law to distinguish between eat-in cafés and takeaway shops. This follows numerous cases of coffee shop chains opening new stores with A1 (retail) permission and then applying retrospectively for A3 (café) use (see feature, pg 20).

Councils generally try to limit the number of A3 shops within the primary shopping frontage but there is local variation. The government plans to amend the Use Classes Order so that people can freely (without planning permission) change the use of buildings within a range allowed by the local community in its local plan.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: "The planning system does not encourage retrospective planning applications, but once they have been submitted, they cannot be ignored. It is for local planning authorities to decide whether to grant consent in the light of all the circumstances."

She said the government did not condone the practice of opening a shop with A1 permission and then applying for A3 retrospectively. "It is clearly unsatisfactory to carry out development without first obtaining the required permission."